What an exceptional week of music! 80’s Brit Pop sensation, Tim Burgess collaborates with avent garde musician Peter Gordon to create something right out of left field, Big Scary are pumping it with raw and primal influences, Angel Olson is smashing it with her diverse but thematically succinct new album and The Pretty Littles bring a new collection of wildy rambunctious tracks to the table to party along to.
Artist Tim Burgess and Peter Gordon
Album Title Same Language, Different Worlds
Label O Genesis
Genre Avant-Garde / Alt-Pop
Moments Of Brian Eno / David Bowie / Japan
Stand Out Tracks Of My Past
We doubt few would have called a collaboration between a baggy Britpop survivor and a prolific American experimentalist, but the union of Charlatans frontman, Tim Burgess and New York avant-garde composer Peter Gordon seems to be one of the most natural pairings in music this decade. Their collaboration resulted in Same Language, Different Worlds, one of the most consistently interesting and inspiring records we’ve hit in a while.
Right off the bat we can tell this release is going to be divisive. Charlatans fans coming into this album blind will more than likely be disappointed by the lack of pop-savvy line work that Burgess is so beloved for. Furthermore, this album does require an attention span that does not come naturally to many people (ourselves included). If, however, you give it the time it deserves you’ll quickly grow to realise that you’re in the presence of something beautiful.
‘Begin’ kicks off the release with a summery, electro-pop vibe that sits Burgess’ pleasantly easy vocals over classic 808 rhythms and chiming guitars. It’s a questionable choice for a tone-setter given how quickly the album dives into darker, fuzzier soundscapes. ‘Say’ is a great example of those grittier tones that wouldn’t sound out of place on the soundtrack of a late 80’s dystopia. The delicate saxophone lines that tuck and weave between Burgess’ slow and deliberate, almost spoken word vocals are a particular highlight.
Krautrock meets modern jazz on ‘Love Is All Around Me’, and the attention to detail on those double-tracked vocal lines that are allowed to occasionally drift apart create this amazing sense of comfort. Couple this with a Philip Glass-like precision in its subtle track development and you’re left at the end without knowing how you got there. Only knowing you enjoyed the ride. This careful evolution in the music is a theme that continues across the release and properly highlights the care, skill and effort taken by Gordon in crafting this album.
‘Being Unguarded’ stands not unlike ‘Love Is All Around Me’, though perhaps influenced less by Krautrock and more by minimalist techno. The pulsing, hypnotic nature of the track leaks over into the meditative ‘Ocean Terminus’ and it’s repetitive, mantra-like vocals floating over a sea of filter-sweeps and wet percussion. ‘Temperature High’ and ‘Like I Already Do’ may very well have been pulled from Brian Eno’s Another Green World if it weren’t Burgess’ morning-after vocals pulling you along.
‘Tracks Of My Past’ is a gorgeous, rolling piano ballad interspaced with Burgess’ simplistic vocals that here, more than anywhere else, read like poetry; an ode to his childhood spent in the English country-side. Closing off the album is ‘Oh Men’, which ties with its predecessor for album highlight. Here they pull together Rolling Stones ballideering with classic Charlatans bass-work and it may very well be the strongest vocal performance Burgess has pulled off in years.
Don’t hesitate with this release, and be sure to give it the time it needs to develop. This one would probably benefit from listening in sessions and it certainly doesn’t need to be taken top-to-top. It does require you to be paying attention and many people could fault it for that, but that would be its only fault. They’re really onto something magical with this release.
Artist: Big Scary
Album Title: Animal
Genre: Indie Pop
Moments Of: Cloud Control / GL / Wild Beasts
Stand Out: Up And Up And Up / Endless Story
Big Scary’s, Iansek has taken a break from No#1 Dad’s to pair up once again with Syme for their new LP. Animal showcases a more venereal and animalistic side of the duo. Their 2013 album, Not Art, was nominated for Triple J’s Australian album of the year and best independent release at the ARIAs. However, after hearing this new record any fear of Big Scary falling short of previous standards is unwarranted.
Animal sees the Melbourne duo explore more hedonistic themes while experimenting with unfamiliar textures and heavier instrumentation. The album consists of a mash up of party tunes as well as a more minimalist approach. Paying respect to their previous works, the ambitious album still retains Iansek’s angelic falsetto and Syme’s cool insouciant drumming.
‘Oxygen’ is the aptly named first track on the album. Big Scary divulge sex, defining it as a need, in similar class to oxygen. “It’s strictly physical, our bodies on the line”. Big Scary have no qualms about getting to the point. The tone of the album is set early on, distinguishing it from previous more dreamy LPs as Iansek cries “Slide my hand a little higher, make you work a little harder”. The heavy beats combined with forceful drumming creates a sense of tempo and energy in a similar nature to the new Wild Beasts album.
‘Endless story’ features pronounced and lively percussion, which is mostly comprised of clapping and whistling, making it an inviting and catchy tune. ‘Flutism’ features solid drum opening and hints of sax and flute. “Fear is in the back seat driving”, Iansek explains, in spoken word pace, that many of our actions are motivated by fear, in a simple fight or flight analogy reminiscent of prehistoric man.
‘Up and up and up’ has a groovy heavy bass and a vast array of electronic thunking notes, which makes for an incredibly danceable track. A sense of grit and grime is present, perhaps something a little new for Big Scary. “Consolation feels no good” is cried, as in the animal world second place is not good enough.
‘Breathe Underwater’ is a contrast to the other tracks with it’s slow and sweet fluidity. Here the drums sound more like rain drops and the listener is treated to the angelic vocals of Iansek.
Animal, showcases Big Scary’s evolution towards heavier, grittier instrumentation and themes. Their new album fluctuates in tempo and energy, but not in integrity.
Artist: Angel Olsen
Album Title: My Woman
Genre: Indie Rock / Soul
Moments Of: Foxygen / Mutual Benefit
Stand Out: Shut Up Kiss Me
Once you hear Angel Olsens’s voice you can’t help but fall in love with her tender soulful sound. My Woman is her fourth solo album since her debut album, Strange Cacti, in 2011. With each release her sound has matured and evolved in unexpected and exciting ways. My Woman in an undoubted testimony to this as Olsen hits record highs in one of her more sonically diverse releases.
My Woman has an unprecedented intimacy that resonates throughout the record. There is an air of constant voluntary vulnerability. The highlight of the record ‘Shut Up and Kiss Me’ explores this lyrically throughout, the line “this heart still beats for you, why can’t you see” sums up this punchy, rockabilly vibe that we don’t often hear in Olsen’s music.
Often known for soft, immaculately crafted songs with a focus on a central vocal with raw, atmospheric guitars such as ‘Acrobat’ off Halfway Home circa 2012 and more recently ‘Windows’ from 2014. There is a newfound playfulness and confidence that is incredibly exciting to hear permeate through this album.
With a richer instrumental element, Angel Olsen has not lost the organic nature of her music. A more collaborative album, there was ample room for experimentation and imperfections were welcomed. When asked about the process of recording Olsen opened up about the freedom inherent in this method “There are mistakes in there [the album] and we left them.” This level of acceptance of musical blemishes should be revered due to the state of our current music paradigm. Hyper produced, buttery smooth tracks, which are immaculately crafted, are often championed over more lo-fi releases. In this way, an artist with a substantial following embraces a form that is sometimes viewed as unrefined.
Angel Olsen’s music is inherently personal and overwhelmingly ambiguous. This is a quality that cannot mass produced, perhaps it is this element that invites listeners to create this intense personal connection with her music. In August this year Olsen, when discussing her musical output she said “I need to make it for me, if it fails for me that’s fine”. This intimacy in conjunction with the ambiguity transforms Angel Olsen’s music into a reflective pool or crystal ball, a tool with which we are able to reconsider our own lives through a distorted reflection. The last song on the record ‘Pops’ is an inherently tender way to finish the album. The lo-fi vocal and single piano allows Olsen to create a moment for pause, a space for thought. This perfectly ties up all the different themes dissected and musical styles explored throughout the album.
Artist: The Pretty Littles
Album Title: Soft Rock For The Anxious
Genre: Garage Rock
Moments Of: Drunk Mums / The Orwells
Stand Out: Pride / Sam’s Mob
Soft Rock For The Anxious marks the third foray into full length territory for The Pretty Littles. Adding their own flavour to Australia’s thriving garage scene with fuzz-riddled guitar and a dizzying live show, the Melbourne band hit full stride on their new album, with a surprisingly honest and heartfelt approach, seldom seen in this genre of feel-good rock.
Soft Rock For The Anxious feels like a coming of age party. Like the band have finally found their groove, nestled in comfortably, and are strapping in to enjoy the ride. If there’s one thing we can take from this album, it’s that these boys know how to have fun, driven by loud guitars and heavy drums, the album opener ‘Soda Pop’ says that and more. Led by Jack Parsons’ distorted vocals, he sings “Italian girls love the bad boys, that’s just the way it goes”, before the rest of the band crash in all loud and proud.
With this in mind, the album’s single of the same name ‘Pride’ is a ripper. Strong, thumping drums push this song along at a more than comfortable pace, allowing Parsons’ melody to shine alongside the searing guitar. Returning to a more relaxed song writing approach, ‘Shithead’ marks a point in the album where the band just let loose a little, akin to another Melbourne garage favourite, the Drunk Mums. Sticking with this same approach, ‘Divorce Party’ is a relentless onslaught of noise and wailing vocals, a prime example of that classic Aussie pub-rock vibe.
With contrasting moments of ‘fuck it’ and seriousness side-by-side, the band show their maturity and the diversity in their writing. ‘Sam’s Mob’ is a semi-political observation spurred by recent events in football, particularly distasteful comments made by Eddy McGuire about journalist Caroline Wilson. This becomes one of the strongest songs on the album, alongside ‘Tall Man’ with it’s anti-authoritarian message. Contrast this with the ‘zero cares’ attitude of ‘Helluva Tuesdy’, and you have a diverse lo-fi record with some real character behind it.
The slow-burning ‘Kerosene’ is a fitting end to such a thoughtful and heartfelt album. Building with the relentless roll of the drums, it breaks down into a thick, crunching head-banger, and with a purposeful loss of cohesion, it falls apart. Soft Rock For The Anxious is easily The Pretty Littles strongest offering to date, paving the way for greater things beyond this release.