In six weeks time we welcome in 2015, a year that, currently fills us with a hint of mystery and wonder. Usually when we get to the end of the year the rumours of new releases start to carrot dangle, but it seems a little too quiet in the quivering musical frequencies of our little world. So while we wait to hear more about the exciting releases of the year to come, we offer you another handful of New Borns, thanks to our growing Contributors list. This week you got eight albums to get through and with Foo Fighters aside (youve heard of them we gather!) we “ears to lend” a handful of albums by bands that you probably have never heard of and try to entice you to broaden your musical lives. Enjoy!
Artist_ Foo Fighters
Album Title_ Sonic Highways
Moments Of_ David Bowie, Rush, Audioslave, Pink Floyd
Stand Out_ What Did I Do, God As My Witness?, I Am A River, Subterranean
After the blazing return to form that was Wasting Light, everyone’s favourite former-Nirvana-drummer Dave Grohl has gone on his own musical history tour with Sonic Highways. Essentially, this is the album-of-the-TV-series-of-the-film, a companion of the same name that first had its seeds in Grohl’s “Record City” documentary about the inner workings of a rock studio. On this album, oddly for the Foos containing just eight tracks over a comparatively sprawling (for them) 42 minutes, they attempt to assimilate the musical roots of eight US cities…with mixed results.
Well, hello there Fooeys. It’s been a while. And this is your 20th anniversary release, I believe? Got yourselves some apparently famous guest side-men for each song, did we? Not that you can really tell. In the end, Sonic Highways as a complete listen is actually weighed down too much by being associated with the TV series. What could’ve been a strong(ish) stand-alone Foo album ends up becoming a quasi-soundtrack release, and satisfies neither audience in the end.
The curiosity factor for the project is fairly high. Put band leader Dave Grohl (vocals, guitar) and fellow Foos Nate Mendel (bass), Taylor Hawkins (drums), Chris Shifflett (guitar) and Pat Smear (guitar) in a room with keyboardist Rami Jaffee and a few old-and-new-found mates should guarantee a smash hit. Shouldn’t it?
As a maturing outfit now (let’s be honest), they still seem to feel the need to drop in all those trademarks, just because that’s what they tend to do – the super-quick guitar picking, the screaming, the swearing. So, while there’s little here that runs too far against expectation for Foo fans, there are some clever and neat touches to be found on a few tracks that hint at greater horizons.
The best moments, though, are where the guys defy such expectations, or simply appear to detour around them. “What Did I Do, God As My Witness?” has a very 1970s vibe of big-hair rock almost crossed over with a dash of country n’ western, with Dave perhaps expressing some sort of religious conversion. “I’m lost, deliver me, I cross the river finally…God is my witness, gonna heal my soul tonight!”, he sings.
Closing duo “Subterranean” and “I Am A River” pick up further on the presumably under-ground water-running theme, and the lovely segue between the two tracks suggests that this could be officially called the Foos’ first 13min17sec epic if taken all together? Impressive. “Sub” offers low-end acoustic guitar in the mould of In Your Honour, with Grohl musing that he has “nothing left within, I’ve been mined to hell and back again”. “River” continues at a near-pastoral, Pink Floydian pace, a real treat. “I’ve found the devil’s water and walked along its shore,” says Dave, clearly in the mood this time around for much soul-searching. But, like the longer-form shots of Audioslave (remember them?), there’s finally a true sense of grandiosity arriving to build to the big, shiny finish the collection needed. It all comes together at last when Grohl ponders “can we recover love for each other, the measure of your life?”
Less successful are “In The Clear”, which, while more expansive in touching both sides of the stereo speakers (hey, even violin phasing on the chorus), feels slightly too obvious when Dave does his a-cappella confessions, and the terrifically speedy, scale-climbing guitar of “Outside”, where Hawkins’ drums propel everything to the point of unfortunately making both Smear and Shiflfett’s parts an interchangeable and anonymous sludge. “Feast And The Famine” has a playful use of off-time drumming and space before breaking out into a slick, old-skool Foo chorus. Perhaps trying too hard to sound like Canadian power trio Rush in the rolling guitar build-ups here, this song signifies that it certainly ain’t quite the “progressive” Foos album expected when Grohl once claimed to the press that he was planning on making his own grunge pop variation on Radiohead’s Ok Computer.
The lyrics sometimes sound rushed, as if Dave was wary of missing the tour bus to the next metropolitan destination. Indeed, according to Chris, the words were virtual off-cuts scrawled off the top of Grohl’s head on the day of each recording, captured in immediate-take form.
Despite the signs of well-aged and well-worn familiarity and just plain good stuff strewn about, Sonic Highways is very much an album of half-ideas, and half-too-much-trickery for trickery’s sake. With just eight chances to haul the listener along for the ride, the Foo Fighters don’t make the most of them this time around.
Artist_ Marianne Faithfull
Label_ Dramatico, Naive
Genre_ Rock, Rock Alt
Moments Of _ Patti Smith, Leonard Cohen
Stand Out_ Mother Wolf
She is the irrepressible Godmother of Rock, the original poster girl for the rebellion and the championing face of bogan pride for the ages, yet at a tender 67 years of age, Marianne Faithfull is at her absolute pinnacle with the release of her latest, Give My Love To London. That candid rasp is gravelly as you remembered as Faithfull sparkles at her most unapologetic; and this week, I dabbled with London love and had a look at the back catalog of an icon whose career has spanned the last forty years.
I rather envy the lifestyle of icons such as Faithfull. Semi – charmed but seemingly blessed by the Wheel of Fortune whilst remaining true to themselves; in keeping with their inherent natures. Cavorting with rock royalty on the reg whilst inspiring numerous ballads, a supermodel bestie and possessing magnetism reserved specifically for the cool kids, Faithfull has had an era defining career to rival many. It’s been 50 years since As Tears Go By was released and what better way to mark the occasion than with a new album.
Of course, Faithfull is slightly less of a party girl these days living a life in between Parisian bohemia and Dublin (naturally) but no less of a paradigm for rock aristocracy. Give My Love To London is significant not only because it marks the release of her first single but because, it marks the very beginning of everything. Perhaps one of her more memorable turns of celebrity marked by a fling with Keith Richards and a consequent relationship with Mick Jagger, a proverbial inspiration and muse for several years. Yet despite the lavish lifestyle, Faithfull battled with drugs, suicidal thoughts and the incessant beckoning into the descent that accompanies a lifestyle of excess.
So what has Faithfull learned? Well, this new album offers some fairly voracious confectionary. Its’ surprising in a way, because it could have easily gone the other way, as in, predictable and trite. Make no mistake; it is still very much that mouthy broad with every intention of stealing your boyfriend right from under you. Mother Wolf stands out as a crowd favorite for its raucous assault on the senses and its melancholy overtures or its acerbic beauty in all the right places. Late Victorian Holocaust is pensive and waxes lyrical on the downfalls of drug addiction at its haziest best and Love More Or Less is about the struggle to revive love in a desert. On recovering from a nasty back injury, Faithfull muses about the perils of being left alone with your mind and the daunting effects it can have.
The verdict? It’s sassy and caustic in the most delightful way. The simmering undercurrent that fizzes with wanton anger belies a complicated, pensive and passionate project that see’s Faithfull shimmer in absolute gold. An utter gem, Faithfull is resplendent as she maintains her title as rocks most formidable chanteuse.
Artist_ Antony and The Johnsons
Album Title_ Turning
Label_ Secretly Canadian
Genre_ Art Pop, Avante Garde, Melodic
Moments Of_ Kate Bush, Joanna Newsom, Leonard Cohen
Stand Out_ For Today I Am A Boy, Daylight And The Sun, Hope There’s Someone
With this, Antony and the Johnsons’ fourth live album release, Turning is both a spectacular recording from Antony’s 2006 European tour and a film by the same name. Both of these were part of the intensive collaborative project with acclaimed film-maker Charles Atlas and a group of 13 ‘beauties’, dancers of whom represent a wide spectrum of women from the LGBTQ community. Atlas created both the visual dimension for the tour, and with footage from this project developed a documentary raising awareness and exploring issues of modern femininity and transgender people in popular culture.
In essence Turning is really just an addition to the growing repertoire of Antony Hegarty and band’s collection of stunning live albums, but in reality it forms part of the multi-award winning project that Hegarty and Atlas had spent many years bringing from idea to reality. With such immeasurable talent in both fields of music and film, and with the presentation and celebration of what in reality are some hugely important issues, Turning the album is truly something to be praised. It is comprised of a complete live set from 2006, featuring Antony and his band the Johnsons, which typically features seven members – horns and strings included. For anyone familiar with Antony’s previous work will find solace in this collection of songs from his four studio albums, including notable efforts from the 2005 Mercury Prize winning I Am A Bird Now.
Understandably, live albums are often wrought with shortcomings. Poor sound quality, people coughing in the background, and of course the unbiased presentation of the artist without any of the studios’ polishing tricks. However, in the case of Antony and the Johnsons, these shortcomings are overlooked by true talent. Antony’s voice proves to be as unique and majestic as ever, his band are without fault and the audience noise is minimal – even claps between songs are very civilised. What sets this live album apart as a notable artwork in it’s own right, in comparison to his previous live albums (many of the songs on Turning have made appearances on these previous live releases) is the message, the ideas and the concepts when coupled with the film. The 13 women who really were the stars of this whole project, bring life and understanding to Antony’s lyrics. Even when, in this case, we only have the audio dimension of this project, you can imagine how the themes of Antony’s work accompanied by the ethereal, soothing yet captivating sounds of his band, are a seamless vessel for the unique stories for each of these women.
“Are you a boy or a girl?” is the resonating message from I Fell In Love With A Dead Boy, while For Today I Am A Boy is a stark reminder that even though “One day I’ll grow up, to be a beautiful girl, but for today I am a boy.” The emotion in Antony’s voice is incomparable. Fan favourite Hope There’s Someone is a tear-jerking rendition of one Antony’s most popular songs, and the desperation in the lyrics is hugely amplified by the unabashed honesty in his voice, the encompassing wholeness of the sound and the women for whom he sings for.
Turning is more than a mere collection of re-released songs. It is a representation of Antony as an artist, a collaborator, a voice and a pioneer. To hear the voice and lyrics of such a unique figure continues to be an inspiration, not just for people of LGBTQ community but for anyone with a dream and a message.
Artist: The Dø
Album Title_ Shake, Shook, Shaken
Label_ Shock Records
Genre_ Folk Rock, Indie Rock, Pop
Moments of standout_ Track Eight – A Mess Like This & Track Nine – Lick My Wounds
French indie pop duo The Dø have returned to our attention with the Australian release of their fourth album; Shake Shook Shaken. Being released to Australia through Shock Records, Shake Shook Shaken promises to shake, shock you after you were shook and ultimately leave you pretty shaken and hyped up. With the last taste of The Dø we had being way back in 2011, the duo hasn’t held anything back with this wonderfully crafted, upbeat and overall pleasant creation.
Shake, Shook, Shaken maintains a healthy balance of being upbeat and also pretty chilled. The album’s main strength is in its consistency, there’s never a moment where you get bored and end up scrolling through Instagram for the entirety of a song only to realise you completely blanked out and have to listen all over, which is a huge plus, as that’s a pretty bad habit I have. Vocalist Olivia Merilahti brings a major asset to the table through her voice, distancing herself from the stereotypical female singing voice, the best way I can describe her voice and the overall sound to Shake Shook Shaken is La Roux meets Chvrches, which, is pretty freakin’ awesome.
The album starts off with Keep Your Lips Sealed, starting with a muffled quiet repetition of the chorus, slowly reeling you into the album as a warm welcome. Merilahti’s joyful voice serves well as it makes you feel that your time to listen to the album is much appreciated by the band, as she commands the listener to do as she says, and keep our lips sealed – just to ensure that you’re giving your full and undivided attention to hear the awesomeness these two crazy French cats are about to unleash onto you. The next stop on the Shake Shook Shaken express is track number two – Trustful Hands. This really takes things down a few notches from Keep Your Lips Sealed, being pretty chilled but not too slow. With any good guitar sections being my weakness, I couldn’t help but applaud the awesome underlying slow rock sound, which is clear enough to be heard but not so full on that it takes over the whole song. The guitar in this song is like the kid in the soccer team that beautifully sets up 90% of the goals and does not want to be the hero, just tops.
Progressing through tracks three to seven things are pretty solid, no complaints on my end, very consistent but just not quite standout fantastic. Arriving at track eight; A Mess Like This, we see a side of the album we have not yet been exposed to, a sudden jolt of rawness has jumped up and stood out amongst the pack, grabbing your attention instantly. Beginning with a very simple, yet beautifully crafted piano melody to accompany Merilahti’s sensitive voice, it’s just perfect. It’s a break from the cool produced sounds we hear on all other songs, which is exactly what we need here just over the halfway point, with simply a voice and a piano, later joined by some elegant violins amongst other classical orchestral sounds it just, so good. The fact that the song is about being in a mess also adds to the feels developed for it.
It is also a beautiful link to my other standout song, track nine; Lick My Wounds. A smooth sailing pop song dominated by a quickly progessing keyboard undertone. This song is their closest link to Chvrches, in that if you played this song and told me it was Chvrches I would probably believe you. Luckily for The Dø, they pull it off beautifully.
Overall, a very consistent and solid album. A good listen that’s easy on the ears with minimal weak points – I give it a score of SEVEN lambs.
Artist_ Cult of Youth
Album Title_ Final Days
Label_ Sacred Bones
Genre_ Experimental, Post-Rock, Acoustic, Folk
Moments Of_ The Cure, Joy Division, Echo & The Bunnymen
Stand Out_ Roses, Dragon Rouge
Brace yourselves for this one; it’s likely to inspire heroic feelings of dragon-slaying that may put your unsuspecting cat in danger. Sean Ragon’s latest offering as Cult of Youth is ambitious and musically exhilarating, but ultimately a little post-apocalyptic and despairing to have on in the background while you’re cleaning. If you’re about to set off on a life-changing and dangerous journey fraught with mythical beasts, then Ragon is the lyricist for you.
The opening, Todestrieb, album makes me feel like I’m in a weird warrior film. There are ropes whipping, drums beating and weird distant horns. And then it speeds up. What is this, some kind of World of Warcraft soundtrack? Not a great start.
But then, phew. A guitar strums in my ears and we’re back in the known realm of music again. It sounds quite promising, a bleak riff reminiscent of The Cure. And then it’s like Ian Curtis is singing, if Ian Curtis ever sang about battling dragons. I’m so weirded out, but it’s catchy at least.
The rest of the album is a strange mix of melody, melancholy and mythology. The guitar strums an energetic beat reminiscent of Echo & The Bunnymen or Against Me!, and it’s incredibly listenable. And while the vocals jar me at first with their dungeon and dragons lyrics, the guttural snarls and yelps of Sean Ragon work really well. The marching beat in Down the Moon is almost inspiring, and then suddenly we’re pulled down into Of Amber and Rogen is whispering perversely in your ear. If it’s anything, the album is amazingly orchestrated.
Are Cult of Youth vying for a spot on The Hobbit soundtrack? The folksy undertones combined with the doom and gloom of Ragon’s shrieking vocals, as well as the post-apocalyptic, fight the dragon lyrics kind of suggest this. Well good luck to them. It’s a musically interesting journey of an album; but unless I’m climbing a mountain and battling some kind of crazy magic beast, the headspace Rogen puts you in is a little bleak for just walking down the street with your headphones on.
Album Title_ Cut Copy Presents: Oceans Apart
Label_ Cutters Records
Genre_ Electronic, Dance
Moments Of_ Jamie XX, Daft Punk
Stand Out_ Roland Tings – Swimmer, Knightlife – Don’t Stop
Melbourne indie electronic outfit Cut Copy bring us as a snapshot of the best up-and-coming dance music that their home city has to offer. Not wanting to wait around for someone else to do it first, founding member Dan Whitford took it upon himself to document just how far the local scene and club culture has come with 19 well-chosen tracks that paint a picture of Melbourne’s writhing dance floors, as well as an insight into the inspirations of Cut Copy themselves.
Having only travelled to Melbourne a handful of times, it would be hard for me to nail down a particular sound or style that would sum up the local dance scene. Cut Copy has hit that nail on the head with ‘Oceans Apart’. The expansive variety of sounds on offer has a strange way of taking me right back to that sweaty dance floor of a club I can’t remember, at a time when I should have been catching some Z’s before my early flight home. There are certainly moments throughout the mix that scream Cut Copy and really show a source of inspiration for the groups own music. Summed up perfectly in an interview with Dan Whitford – “we’ve always found deep inspiration in the music of our home city. It’s where Cut Copy started, as just one band in a potent community of unique and likeminded artists. But it also continues to inspire and surprise us, with great new music constantly bubbling to the surface”
Beginning with the smooth electro-disco beats of Knightlifes ‘Don’t Stop’ and progressing through to tracks like the tribal ‘Kookaburra’ by Coober Pedy University Band certainly showcases the scope of the mix. Not wanting to settle on one particular aspect of Melbourne’s club culture, it instead rolls and sways seamlessly through a swathe of diverse electronica that still manages to keep to the overall theme in mind. There are even moments of funk with the track ‘Music Is My Life’ by Andras & Oscar. The sweeping arpeggios of standout track ‘Swimmer’ by Roland Tings really cements what I love so much about ‘Oceans Apart’. It’s laid back, rhythmic and just plain nice. The whole album oozes that chilled out, yet dancey vibe that just makes you want to crack open a beer and invite your friends around to party shirtless in your living room. If you were to take only one thing from this mix, I hope it’s the realisation that the future of electronic music in Australia is in good hands!
I found ‘Oceans Apart’ to be an absolute treat to listen to. The flow of the tracks work incredibly well and presents the listener with a real sense of what the Melbourne dance scene is all about. Rhythmic synths giving way to tribal beats and catchy melodies that only make you want to explore each artists own catalogue as soon as the album is over. Having been a big fan of Cut Copy since the release of ‘In Ghost Colours’, I really enjoyed the snapshot of inspiration that drive the band and found it a great entry point into the genre at a greater depth. An enjoyable listen for fans and music explorers alike.