It is never an easy task to select those albums (New Borns) that we will review each week, not to mention all our writers scrambling for artists that they have heard as opposed to ones they perhaps known little about. We try to select a broad of artists from around the world that cover diverse genres and this week is proof in the pudding. Kiran Leonard, is young aficionado who had release a 16 minute single to showcase his album, a mighty ballsy move, that pretty much is the amount of time it took to listen to the album (well EP) by Melbourne band Rolling Blackouts C.F. Record label Bella Union, deliver another promising artists called Exmagician and we welcome our newest writer from Sydney, Kait who dives in with some words on three-piece Minneapolis band, Night Moves.
Artist Kiran Leonard
Album Title Grapefruit
Label Moshi Moshi
Genre Alt Rock/Avant-Garde
Moments Of Thom Yorke, Ariel Pink, Kings of Leon
Stand Out Pink Fruit
Born in Oldham, Manchester, Kiran Leonard is a student of Oxford University who has been playing mandolin since the age of five and at just twenty years old, with two studio albums to his name. Signed to Moshi Moshi records, this fresh new record from the UK’s young troubadour feels like a mad scientist’s experiment, mis-matching limbs that are sewn together to form a creation with a life of its own. One encounter with ‘Grapefruit’ and you’ll feel equal parts enlightened and confused.
With his first album ‘Bowler Hat Soup’ released in 2013 and a Bandcamp full of songs, Kiran Leonard’s musical sentiment has been compared to Jeff Buckley and as a millennial whose music lives in the world of social platforms has amassed quite the cult following. ‘Grapefruit’ has many nods to Radiohead’s Thom Yorke in the vocals and surprising production and at times the big drums, fuzzy guitar and growling vocals are reminiscent of early Kings of Leon. The album picks up pieces of jazz, rock, indie ballads and burlesque. The scope is wide, but no matter how many influences can be found in ‘Grapefruit’ it stands alone as a massive work of modern musical art.
The record features among other things a 16 minute long alt-rock centrepiece about a man meeting a squid (see ‘Pink Fruit’), light and orchestral string lines fit to sweep you off your feet (‘Caiaphas in Fetters’), a lovely song about a person with no legs meeting a person with no arms and becoming perfect lovers for each other (‘Half-Ruined Already’), and its fair share of straight up shouting over a cacophony of percussion and dissonant honky-tonk piano (see ‘Fireplace).
How can material so left of field be taken seriously? The answer lies in the musical prowess and unhindered authenticity of every song. Sometimes the genuinely beautiful songwriting and melodies feel indulgently buried by super weird production just for the sake of it. But its obvious Kiran had a vision, and so the extra percussion and absurd trumpet lines all have their place. The songs, though seemingly abstract and vocals not always easy listening, have a heart wrenching quality about them. A creative pursuit so unapologetic in its delivery has a joyful, dangerous power.
At times ‘Grapefruit’ reminds me of a cultish meeting where members might sit in a circle and play a jam of guitars and cymbals, eyes half closed and talking in tongues. It is said we fear what we don’t understand. With this in mind ‘Grapefruit’ could have been outcast as a monster. But Kiran Leonard’s record is more like an erratic friend you hang out with because you know you can skip the coffee and small talk and get straight to some adventure where you debate so much about the world you lose track of time. And even if it’s just in small doses, they are the best kind of companion.
Artist Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever (AKA Rolling Blackouts C.F.)
Album Title Talk Tight
Label Ivy League Records
Genre Garage Pop, Indie Rock
Moments Of The Go-Betweens, The Clean
Stand Out Wide Eyes, Clean Slate
Technically not a full length album, nor a new release, Talk Tight has no real place as a New Born. However, as a stand out release that has steadily been gaining more and more attention since it’s release late last year, its been making appearances in the blogs again and therefore found itself a place in this weeks’ New Borns. And what an impressive release it is.
With just five songs and a running time of 21 minutes, it’s hard to call this an album. Let’s say an EP for completions sake. But otherwise, this Melbourne five-piece have been pricking up ears around the country as well as overseas – recently just receiving a pretty sparkly review on the old Pitchfork. But what does it mean to us back home? We, mere local pub dwellers and live music scroungers. It is right to say that this is a small collection of guitar pop (or ‘soft punk’ as they refer to themselves as) songs with a heavy Australian flavour, but is also right to say that they are crafted in a particularly fine fashion. Each of the five songs make their own impression on the EP – album opener Wither With You sets the tone perfectly for the EP with romantic ideals, bouncy bass lines and guitar melodies of classic proportions. First single Wide Eyes is an uplifting encounter with young love which is undeniably perfect at transporting you to the road trip on a summer afternoon. It’s propulsive and noisy, whilst the jangly guitars and true pop melodies means the songs are accessible enough to both youth radio and your Dad’s mates down the pub.
Their live set up sees them using three guitars (one being acoustic) and each guitar wielder taking turns on vocals. This establishes a dynamic that is both intriguing and full sounding, while also lyrically they are all bringing the top of their game. Obvious comparisons to Australian guitar pop legends The Go-Betweens have been established, as well as a hearty nod back to the massively influential (especially in a lot of the bands we are hearing now) Flying Nun record label. Just by peaking at their videos sees them in full Australia in the 80’s and 90’s mode – VHS footage, cameras strapped to dog’s backs, western suburbs Melbourne.
Heard You’re Moving and Clean Slate both bustle along with a purposeful intention, the first with an innocent, youthful singalongs and the former with undulations that hold you until the last second. It’s all rounded off with Tender Is The Neck, an easing song in pace and vibe, almost to that of dole-wave benchmarks. It leaves you in nothing but a good mood – where any pop record should leave you really. Talk Tight is a release that we have revisited with the best intention of hoping that you will too, as it is certainly worth your time.
Album Title Scan The Blue
Label Bella Union
Genre Indie Rock
Moments of Pavement, Beck
Stand Out Kiss That Wealth Goodbye, Smile To The Gallery, Scan The Blue
Belfast Duo Exmagician have delivered their debut album Scan The Blue an assortment of fuzzy psychedelic garage rock. Daniel Todd and James Smith are familiar assets to some, as two former members of the band Cashier No.9 they have formed a diverse album filled with confident instrumentals, charming lyrics and buoyant vocals.
‘Kiss That Wealth Goodbye’ kicks it off, their strongest and most self-assured song that’s delivered with a strut. It has a colloquial lure which makes it such a standout track. Expecting more of the same from the following would be a mistake though. Adopting a more playful tone with ‘Bend With The Wind’, they showcase a bounce alike to the The Shins. Whilst ‘Place Your Bets’ encompasses an assortment of an impressive guitar, the consistent rattle of a tambourine and a well-earned wittiness which is evident throughout the album, ‘I’ve come home with my halo on, gonna drown my pity, gonna right my wrongs’.
Exmagician are also quite impressive when they slow things right down. ‘Feet Down Fail’ is an inner monologue of a stumble home. Setting the pace with slow plucks and weathered vocals they will themselves through. We follow them with anticipation. ‘Smile To The Gallery is their most atmospheric song, swallowing us with cool reverb-waves. Both songs being a nice change before arriving back to that wicked charm that is broadcasted so effortlessly on tunes like ‘The Rock Sets In’.
Exmagician constantly change their approach going from shoegaze narratives to upbeat and woozy pop. With the main consistencies in their sound being the harmony of ooohs and aaahs and the addictive guitar. Themes of hope, trust and revenge are also the key ingredient as Todd explains that they never waiver from the three. Are these themes possibly related to the deterioration of the duo’s last band, we don’t know.
It’s apparent that the duo is comfortable in their sound, although it will be interesting to see if they continue to be so diverse in the future. Either way, experience shines through on Scan The Blue, each instrument compliments the next in its execution. What comes out the other end is a frisky and spirited sound that isn’t dulled by simplicity, but expanded upon with each addition.
Artist Night Moves
Album Title Pennied Days
Label Domino Records
Genre Indie Pop / Rock
Moments Of The Flaming Lips, The War on Drugs
Stand Out Denise, Don’t Wanna See You Cry, Border on Border & Hiding in the Melody
The highly anticipated second album of Minneapolis trio Night Moves delivers their smooth, hypnotic 70’s dream pop tunes once again. With more of an emphasis on vocals than their previous tracks, John Pelant’s voice is the cherry on the top of their soft psychedelic sound. With their album just having dropped Night Moves are getting straight into their US wide tour, kicking off in mid April.
Night Moves were formed in 2009 with band members John Pelant (vocals/guitar), Micky Alfano (bass) and Mark Ritsema (multi-instrumentalist) first met in high school and while many of us were flailing our way through maths homework and acne, these guys started a musical project that would one day become Night Moves.
You can always tell bands who have been playing together since they were young. The effortless cohesion and the development of their music is something that only comes with time. In late 2012 the band was picked up by Domino Records, a label that represents alternative pop heavyweights such as Dirty Projectors and Hot Chip to name a few.
‘Pennied Days’ is a jump from the band’s debut album ‘Coloured Emotions’, with this album providing a more upbeat, with a psychedelic lo-fi pop feel, the album’s country twang creates a truly unique flavour, up against the more conventional psychedelic pop rock, the third track ‘Leave Your Light On’ is a perfect example of this, offering a typical folk sound with vocals that sound similar to Jake Bugg. They have fostered this uniquely Americana sound that is reminiscent of The War on Drugs and Kurt Vile and you can hear strong influences from eccentric, The Flaming Lips.
The stand out track on the album is ‘Denise, Don’t Wanna See You Cry’, the warped first note hints a drawn comparison of a Tame Impala vibe, if only it were a little longer in duration, with an underlying contagious beat with lyrics that get stuck in your head and guitar work that is dreamlike.
‘Border to Border’ is an incredibly rich track with a killer guitar riff highlighting through the entire song as well as Pelant’s voice that creates an addictive 1970s sound, a gem track on this album. ‘Hiding in the Melody’ also nails this retro feel that flows throughout the album.
The trio embark on their US wide tour come April, kick-starting their tour in their hometown of Minneapolis before embarking on shows down the East and West Coast of the US and unfortunately no word on an Australian tour but a band that are worthy of your time to listen to, I am sure we will hear more from them in the year to come.