.Australian Music.


Katie Noonan + The Alcohotlicks + Holland @ The Factory Theatre (05.03.11)

I’d never been to the Factory Theatre before, but it turned out to be the perfect venue to see Katie Noonan & The Captains. It was much like a school hall stage; however, instead of toddlers sitting cross-legged in crooked rows upon the floor, the venue was dimly lit and littered with stools with bar tables and rows of chairs.

The gig started with two of the best supporting acts I have ever seen. The first was a band from Brisbane calledHolland. Holland is what I would nominate to be a ‘soft-rock’ band delving into the more melancholy side of producing music. They’re quite mellow and calm, and with the lead vocalist’s perfect pitch control, they definitely make for easy-listening and a peaceful show. You can tell that this four-man band love what they do and really enjoy playing music; they seem to be in their own little world when on stage and it’s quite an honour to watch.

As well as their great interaction, they’re very ‘at peace’ with their instruments; it’s as though they’re just another part of their body, everything comes so naturally. I was very impressed with the level of musical discipline Holland demonstrated in their music. They decorate but don’t over-impose, so at no point is there a monstrous wall of sound rushing at you to digest. One of the things I liked most about Holland was the vocals, they take ‘the road less travelled’; what I mean by this is that instead of being predictable and average, they’re crafted in a way that keeps your ears prickled – they’re something to be understood rather than just listened to. All I can recommend is that you check them out.

The second support band was a Sydney three-beast complexity comically named The Alcohotlicks… this was an interesting set. The first thing that caught my ears was the drumming; it had to be the most intriguing and syncopated drumming I’d heard in a live gig yet. I was trying to follow the line of the music but it kept jumping from tempo to tempo – so eventually I gave up and just enjoyed it.

The drums were obviously leading the whole set and kept everything ‘together’ and the two guitars followed flawlessly in impeccable time; how they did it was beyond me. There was no bass and no vocals, and at times I found myself longing for an ‘oooh’ or an ‘aahhh’ or a ‘yeeeaaahhh’, but no, there was nothing. Their music is very colourful and childish – painting a million and one images in your head all at once. It was confusing at times, however, this is what made it so entertaining; you could never pick where the music was going and you had to really pay attention in order to keep up with it. It was as though each instrument was playing a different song, but each was synced so perfectly with the others that it became one song with three very different parts. For anyone looking for a bit of a challenge, I would highly recommend these guys. They’re masters of complexity.

Katie Noonan & The Captains emerged from backstage to an anticipating audience and instantly ‘wOwed’ them with the first track from their newest LP, ‘Radar’. It didn’t take me long to come to terms with the fact that Katie Noonan & The Captains were a very different band live to their recording, but it took no time at all to adjust.

There is no voice in the world like Katie Noonan’s; it is sharp, crisp, piercingly clear and bright. You want to hear pitch control? Then wrap your ears around Katie – she is a pure vocal freak. And what an amazing woman! Her humility and informal approach to her live show was a breath of fresh air. She performed as herself, just as another human being – not someone who expects admiration or superiority. Her interaction with the audience was very conversational. She explained why and who she’d written her songs for before each track she performed, and this really drew the audience in. Contrary to what I was expecting, it was a very intimate live show.

What a great band. All four of them work so well together, I love seeing people having huge amounts of fun playing music, and Katie Noonan & The Captains were having so much fun. It was impossible to sit still; I just wanted to ‘bop’. Her set list included songs like ‘Cotton Wool’, ‘Time’, ‘Space Between’, ‘Special One’, ‘Emperor’s Box’, ‘Radar’ and ‘Never Know Your Luck’ – so, pretty much every song from the latest album. She also had a couple of jam sessions on stage with the boys from The Alcohotlicks – which was completely off-the-chain.

This gig was the closest I’ve seen to being a ‘perfect gig’. The groove was constant throughout the whole show; they all performed with incredible swag and at no point in time was I even slightly bored, the whole show was incredible. Katie even came out after the gig to have drinks with people; from which I scored a signed vinyl LP, a photo, and a hug. So fantastic. I’m giving this gig a 9.5/10. I loved it.


Warpaint + Richard In My Mind @ Oxford Art Factory (08.02.11)

It would be unfair to classify Warpaint as a girl band, even though in reality this is what they are. It seems as though these days there is an ‘automatic reputation’ that surrounds the contemporary ‘girl band’; in their mind people either default to ‘too poppy and romantic’, ‘too dissonant and loud’, or ‘too pre-menstrual’… However! Warpaint have not lived up to any of these preconceived reputations and have branched out on their own journey of discovery incorporating elements of rock, thrash, dream-pop, and funk – an odd polygamous marriage of sorts yes, but freaking incredible.

(Just so you know, I don’t usually swear when I write, and this review has managed to remain a virgin to this so far; but I am already fast running out of words to describe just how incredible Warpaint are… and I haven’t even started writing about the gig itself yet.)

One thing I love about the Oxford Art Factory is that it is intimate; there is no barrier between the stage and the crowd, you can see the sweat beading up on the faces of the people playing and when it is packed, the vibe just resonates. This gig was a small slice of heaven on earth.

I was bountifully blessed to see the support band; Richard In Your Mind… Wow. If you are reading this and like Tame Impala, Dumbo Gets Mad, The Pains of Being Pure At Heart and Beach House, you will love these guys. They take ’60s rock and add a twist of synth and some tight snares to produce a bouncy, compact yet placid performance. The guys in Richard In Your Mind really know how to put on a show (whether they are aware of this or not) – everyone in the crowd found themselves uncontrollably moved by their music.

Warpaint were on stage fifteen minutes late, and I’d felt like a little kid needing to pee waiting for them to drag their sorry asses on stage, but all was soon forgiven and forgotten when they opened with ‘Bees’ – holy crap. I’m reliving the moment in my head right now when the drummer kicked off with her Latin-edged thrash-detailed beat, and it’s still blowing my mind.

The girls in Warpaint are quiet as individuals and modest; they don’t talk much and they don’t entertain with their words (unless they are sung), but the eye contact they make with the crowd and the freshness of their performance say more than any pre-rehearsed joke ever could. There is an innocence within the band that is so clearly depicted in their live gig; the musicians and bands they have been influenced by don’t dictate what they produce, but instead have been melted together and intensified with their own flavour which in turn radiates everything new and exciting these chicks have to offer. Do it. Go see them.

Their set included many tracks from their newest LP The Fool which was released early last year, including “Bees”, “Undertow”, “Set Your Arms Down”, “Composure” and “Warpaint”, as well as other released tracks like “Stars” and “Elephants”. I was a little disappointed not to hear my other favourites “Shadows” and “Billie Holiday”, but I guess they will be impetus to see them next time they’re in town – not that I would miss it anyway.

It’s a real pleasure to see how all four girls act and react to each other on stage. They feed off each others energy and seem to be so ‘in touch’ with what is going on with everything. They spontaneously burst into “jam sesh” mode at different times throughout their set, and at this gig, for the impulsive five minute sections where they followed a tangent off into the sunset and back again, not one person in the whole of the Oxford Art Factory wasn’t bangin’ their head. Although, what’s really refreshing about the whole live set is that they all look so at peace with an instrument in hand. Words can’t really describe it, but fuck (there I go, I said it), those chicks can really play.

I have officially dubbed Warpaint at the Oxford Art Factory my favourite gig of 2011 so far. I’m serious. If you were there, you are now my cosmic family, and if you weren’t, sucked in. See them next time.

Radiohead – The King of Limbs (2011 LP)

There has been much ‘storm’ surrounding the newest Radiohead release The King Of Limbs that there is no widely held opinion of it; I don’t hear anyone raving about it, but at the same time no one seems to be writing hate mail. I can only speak for myself on this one, and upon listening to it I’m shot with a resounding ‘so-so’.

With the sudden news of this LP’s release only a month ago, to the unexpected 24 hour pre-release scandal and again to the rumours of a sequel album being released very shortly, it’s almost as if Radiohead intended to cause a pandemonium with this album. The entire disc runs for just over 38 minutes and contains only 8 tracks. In comparison to the strung-out complex stringency of previous Radiohead releases, this is definitely not what die-hard Radiohead fans world-wide were expecting, but it does provide a level of freshness to feed the addiction.

Radiohead is a band that is continually pushing the boundaries and introducing new concepts and elements to their work, so just like any other release, it can’t really be compared to other Radiohead albums. Every release has been different and future releases will continue to be different; this is just the way of music, if you’re not progressive then you’re old.

I’ll say quite boldly that I wasn’t 100% impressed with this album; maybe I’m too used to being blown away with Radiohead to cop anything less than flawlessness. I found it a little ‘dry’ of emotional content in comparison to previous releases that are choc-full of sentiment. At times it can be quite evoking but not often enough to be satisfyingly so, and whilst their overuse of repetitive beats become fairly monotonous at times, at a few points throughout the album I found myself being thrown into a void of fiercely forlorn sound.

Track 6, “Codex”, is beyond a doubt my favourite track on the album. As soon as I heard it I was instantly reminded that I was indeed listening to Radiohead; amoungst all the fluff and fusion on the album until this point I felt as though I was a stranger to them, but “Codex” brought me back down to earth. Its lugubrious half-syncopated, muted piano chords were incredibly melancholic and instantly transported me back to the dimly lit corner wreathed in cigarette smoke I used to sit in whilst listening to earlier albums of Radiohead. There is a point towards the end of the track where the strings and piano drop simultaneously into a minor key which proves that Radiohead can still make me tingle. Johnny Greenwood’s composition skills have flourished since the previous album and “Codex” is a perfect example of this; he’s returned to turf seldom walked by Radiohead on previous releases, and the way he has swelled the sounds of the echoing piano alongside Thom York’s vocals is simply magical.

Track 7 on the LP, “Give Up The Ghost”, is also a personal favourite. It’s light and vivacious countenance brought about by Thom Yorke’s looped vocals together with the scarce but steady kick-drum meant it was a stand-out point on this album. I especially enjoyed its more or less ‘oriental’ climate. This was a track that I found very different to anything Radiohead had put forward on any of their previous albums. It is gentle, subtle, timely and fascinating all at once, but what makes this track stand out most of all is that Thom Yorke doesn’t hold back his unbelievable vocal range which indeed keeps the essence of this track very ‘Radiohead’. It was at this very late point in the album that I could actually begin to understand the direction Radiohead had taken on this album.

In the four years it has taken Radiohead to get off their asses to produce a new album, Thom Yorke has been a busy boy collaborating with a few ‘low-profilers’; Flying Lotus [FlyLo] being one of them. FlyLo is renowned for his unorthodox approach to electronic, experimental, fusion and Hip-Hop music, and Thom York featured on his track “And The World Laughs With You” from his LP Cosmogramma that came out last year. On this track, Thom Yorke’s vocals are dubbed, cut, reverbed, stuttered and molded around FlyLo’s tech-tonic beats. For me personally, FlyLo’s influence on The King of Limbs is more than obvious. For those of you who were wondering about Radiohead’s intense use of loops, repetitive beats and fusion-induced hooks on this album, it sounds as though FlyLo is where this branches from. The first track on The King of Limbs, “Bloom”, sounds as though it is a track plucked straight from the listening on Cosmogramma. Tracks like “Feral”, “Little By Little” and “Lotus Flower” also stand out to me as having been heavily influenced by FlyLo.

Whilst there are a lot of musical elements to be discussed about this album, what really excites me about this release is its musical clout and influence. In a way, Radiohead act as a gateway to the more independently persuaded sectors of the musical world. In no way at all is Radiohead considered to be ‘underground’, but the level of familiarity the members of Radiohead have concerning musicians who are not as widely recognised, means that aspects and elements of the ‘underground’ sector will filter through in their music.

To make assumptions, Radiohead have used their fame and success to introduce people who are unfamiliar with the vast range of music there is in the world to more alternative styles of music. If you take this notion, The King of Limbsmay well become a revolutionary album in this respect. Whilst being a little unsettling and unfamiliar to the majority of people, the computerized beats, the fusion-drenched instrumentation and Thom Yorke’s cut and reverbed vocal effects (whilst these techniques are reasonably common in a lot of the ‘under-played’ and ignored styles of music) are not so commonly found techniques amoungst the music collections of the ‘average Joe’. But, because most people who listen to music have been exposed to Radiohead at least once in their lives, The King of Limbs will now be added to the repertoire of albums people will stumble upon; hence, becoming impetus to seek out similar musicians of which most are fairly independent. I know this seems to be a ‘huge call’, but one can only hope.

This album is distinctly split into two halves. Up until the end of the 4th track “Feral” the album is distinctively ‘buzzier’ and fresh, whereas beginning at track 5 “Lotus Flower” the album begins to revisit former Radiohead techniques like warm bass, and a faster paced and more progressive melody. It’s almost as though the second half of this album is building up to something. The album ends quite abruptly with a ‘classic sounding’ Radiohead track “Separator” – maybe there is more to come?

I am really excited to see what happens throughout the aftermath of this album; what styles of music will flourish because of this newest Radiohead release. There were a lot of things I think could have been done better on this LP, and to be brutally honest I don’t think it is their best release, but it does bring a whole new range of elements to the table for digesting. For most Radiohead fans, this LP is one that has to be listened to a few times before you start to understand the direction of the album. For people who are just getting into Radiohead, I would recommend you don’t start with this album but instead turn your ears to In Rainbows or Amnesiac then work your way through the rest of the Radiohead albums ending with The King of Limbs. Having followed Radiohead for a while now, I can see how The King of Limbs fits into their discography, and it was by no means a surprise that they’ve produced an album like this. I’m giving it a comfortable 6.5/10. It was a compelling listen, and at no point in time did I ever want to skip a song, but it did tire me out a little and I think that a few aspects within the music may have been overlooked – whether intentional or not.

Review Score: 6.5/10

Sia + The Holidays @ The Enmore (02.02.11)

Dressed in a bright pink tutu and a black, fluffy poncho-looking-thing, the rest of her body painted black, she stood upright, sticky-taped to a cardboard cut-out background, also painted black. She was a walking wall positioned on a stage that looked as though my grandmothers knitting bag had thrown up all over it. This was Sia; very Sia. The stage was adorned with crocheted blankets that hung over every amp and instrument in the place – it was almost as though the intimacy of the gig had been created by trying to make the crowd forget they were at a gig, but instead in an old lady’s living room. Cup of tea anyone?

But more on this shortly…

The night began with The Holidays; a great band – and terribly unrecognized. They played an awesome set which I think most people appreciated, but most were also a little reluctant to ‘bop’ to; as most others weren’t doing so… I saw a few feet tapping and heads swaying, but other than that the crowd remained stationary for most of The Holiday’s set. Although the good thing about The Holidays gig is that the boys will always have fun, so whether you are too sweltering to move or not feeling the vibe of their music, you will still have a good time because you can watch the boys on stage laughing their heads off and jumping around.

The Enmore was a great place to see Sia – she performs well in intimate settings and The Enmore is probably as big a venue as they come, whilst still making it possible to achieve a certain level of crowd / performer interaction and intimacy. Although, I’m going to be a party-pooper and make one lousy complaint about The Enmore – please, get some damn working air-conditioning!

There is one thing in particular that impresses me especially about Sia, and that is throughout her entire career as a singer / songwriter, she has somehow managed to retain her innocence (as far as humility, nature and fashion goes). She performs every song as though she is auditioning, and when the crowd claps, cheers and cries at the end of every song, plastered with a cheeky grin she sinks her head and calls out a cute ‘thank you’.

As a long time Sia fan, I guess I was a little disappointed that she didn’t play more tracks from her previous albums, but I also recognize that time comes and goes, and most of the people at this gig probably wanted to hear her sing her newer stuff – I mean, We Are Born was her first huge album and it was only released last year.

She opened with ‘The Fight’ (a perfect header) and continued her set with songs like ‘I’m In Here’, ‘Be Good To Me’, ‘You’ve Changed’, ‘Big Girl, Little Girl’, ‘Oh Father’, ‘Cloud’, ‘Bring Night’, ‘Never Gonna Leave Me’ and ‘The Co-Dependent’; so she pretty much played the whole of her new album. She threw in some tracks from her previous album ‘Some People Have Real Problems’ too like ‘You Have Been Loved’, ‘The Girl You Lost to Cocaine’ and ‘Buttons’.

There was one particular track (originally from her second album Colour the Small One) that gets its own paragraph because I have so much to say about it… I don’t know what it is about this particular track, but for me, it remains as musical perfection in its most elemental form. This track is of course ‘Breath Me’. I was positioned second row from the front right in front of Sia, and to see her perform this track sent chills down my spine… This track is brimming with feeling, so much so that Sia takes a modest, brief moment before the song as ‘preparation time’. Her whole body remains still the whole way through the song as she clutches the mic between her two child-like hands, pushing her soul softly out through the amps. I am not afraid to admit this, but her performance of ‘Breath Me’ brought me very nearly to tears. There isn’t a word invented yet that I could use to describe the feeling I got when I heard her sing it.

One thing that ya’ll should probably know about Sia’s live performance is that she likes to ‘haggle’. The next time you see her live make sure you bring some letters / CD’s / shirts / your telephone number / a bubble ring / a folder full of useless crap to give her – she will take it all – and shove it down her pants… She is very honest in the way that she portrays herself on stage. She is very ‘human’ and down-to-earth; which is such a breath of fresh air. She does talk a lot at her gigs… I reckon she probably could have fit another three songs in with the amount of time she spent talking last night… saying that, she is very entertaining, and not just even on a musical basis. She is bubbly, giggly and childish; but with a dirty mouth…

The evening was such good fun. Sia really knows how to work the crowd; and with this natural ability + her huge heart for people in general, this gig was like no other I’d been to.

Braids – Native Speaker (2011 LP)

The new Braids LP Native Speaker was released with a lot of preconceived notions and expectations, but not so much hype and excitement. It has been dubbed as a ‘mini album’, and with only 7 tracks on it I guess a ‘mini album’ is a fitting title – but the album does go for 40 minutes… It is (sort of) their first release since changing their name from Neighborhood Council to Braids – which in my opinion was a good move…

Even conducting just a little research on this album over the inter-schnitzel led me down corridors of huge comparisons to Animal Collective. It’s quite obvious to see the influence Animal Collective has on Native Speaker, especially with some of the vocal techniques used and the odd hook here and there. I would even compare the vocals to that of the two fabulous young ladies in Sydney’s very own Kyu; there are a lot of the same vocal principles going on.

I like a lot of things about this LP, Braids really chase after a lot of different sounds that develop and bounce off one another which mesh into this intoxicating bubbling cauldron of sound. Saying this, I found that some tracks provided a little too much sound simultaneously for me to really pin down what was happening within the music – but Braids are renowned for this sort of thing; it’s their ‘identifier’.

There is some incredible usage of synthesized bowed guitars here that completely blew me away. The first track on the album “Lemonade” is a great example. Towards the end of the track, a collection of different instruments come together playing different chirpy melodies, and the undertone in the track at this point are these beautiful synthed, bowed guitars. Braids have really gone to the ninth degree to create amazing sounds on this LP.

One criticism I’m going to make about this LP is that I think the production could have been a little better. At times the music can be quite faint, and then in the next moment it’s booming; at other times, the instruments over power the vocals a little too much as well. Braids may have chosen for it to play out this way – but even so, it’s very annoying.

My favourite track on the album is track three, “Glass Deers”. It is quite placid and the sound in it extends over a vast complexity, yet it remains quite simple sounding. The vocals are very gentle and cute whilst the drums and keyboards are quite steady and spicy. There are a lot of layers, so I could sit and listen to this song over and over again and each time I would be able to pick out new aspects of it I hadn’t picked up on previously.

One common technique Braids have applied to the entire LP is echo – not reverb. With reverb the sounds still remain very much in control of themselves, but echo provides a more conversational and frivolous sound; it’s a little more ‘throw-it-out-there-and-see-what-comes-back’ sort of thing.

Overall, I was very impressed with Native Speaker. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting but it didn’t disappoint. If you’re looking for something with a bit of bite for a mature pallet, definitely give Braids a listen.

Review Score: 8/10

The Books + High Places @ The Seymour Centre (18.02.11)

I really wasn’t quite sure what to expect from The Books on Friday night. Their newest release The Way Out was brilliant, but how they were going to translate that into an entertaining live set; I just couldn’t anticipate this happening successfully.

For anyone who remembers, last Friday night was particularly ruthless; no one dared leave an air-conditioned room for sake of melting and becoming a pool of flesh on the ground. Nonetheless, there I was traipsing through Redfern in jeans (dumb), followed closely by a few walking cans of VB, on my way to the Seymour Center. Thank goodness the Seymour Center was cool on the inside because my concentration span wouldn’t have gone the distance otherwise. This was a live set I had to warm up to; it was going to be very different to anything I had seen before.

The support act was LA comers High Places; I could see why they were chosen as the support act because they stuck to a lot of the same principles that The Books liked to incorporate into their music, however, their execution wasn’t so great. The duo took to the stage with a big drum machine and two guitars. Wreathed in trippy projections, the duo proceeded to drench their whole set in reverb and loops. Their tracks were somewhat repetitive, sometimes painfully so, and their minimalistic vocals and melodies were frustratingly scarce. I am a sucker for a fabulous live entertainer, and what disappointed me furthermore about High Places is that it seemed as though both of them, simultaneously, decided to forget about the crowd and play with their effects pedals at numerous times throughout their set.

On the other hand, High Places really struck a chord with me at times. They produced some nice mellow beats on top of layered crisp vocals that in turn created an almost eerie, melancholic feel. They reminded me a lot of Deep Forest; they had that ‘indie’ feel to them whilst at the same time remaining neutral and very eclectic. I have respect for them as musicians, but I guess it wasn’t my cup of tea. I would prefer to digest music slowly in small bites, rather than swallow an entire wall of sound all at once.

The Books were highly anticipated. The stage was beamed with a blue light, and a flickering projection lit up a screen on the back wall saying ‘The Books’; it reminded me a lot of the set up for RockWiz.

Originally, The Books were a duo of two young guys making music, but at this live gig there were three of them. A new addition to the team: his name is ‘Jean’. This new dynamic was something I wasn’t expecting, so I was automatically thrown completely off balance. I became skeptical because I had absolutely no idea how this was going to change the music, or what sort of influence this new ‘Jean’ dude was going to have.

In short, Jean ‘wowed’ me. As this was the first time I’d ever seen The Books, I wasn’t too familiar with their processes, but I’m guessing that pre-Jean they used to play a lot of their recordings throughout their live set to ‘fill in the blanks’. But in this live performance, Jean was the filler. He played every instrument, and even took hold of parts of some tracks that I would have thought impossible to play live. Surely studio production is so much more advanced these days… right? Jean’s tremolo was flawless, and the speed of his pizzicato was incredible. It was apparent to me very early on in the gig that this new addition wasn’t a negative thing.

Their set list included many tracks from their newest release The Way Out like ‘Free Translator’, ‘Group Autogenics I’, ‘A Freezin’ Cold Night’ and ‘I Didn’t Know That’ just to name a few, but they remembered their roots with tracks like ‘Smells Like Content’ and ‘A Brief Moment of Meditation’.

The Books are for the most part very colourful and experimental in their music. Seeing them live is very different to listening to their album, because when you listen to their recordings your mind colours in the outline of the music with pictures. When you see them live, this outline is taken away because you are already using your eyes (and ears) to experience the music. The Books perfectly sync their music with obscure and bizarre projections, full of emptiness and food for thought, so that you have room to implant your own thoughts into the live show. It’s very clever. Each and every person in the crowd was hooked all the way through.

To see The Books live was very refreshing. They are comedians just as much as they are musicians. They know of their own existence and equality and perform as such; with a humility and sincere gratitude. The Books create a soundtrack to every aspect of life, from the most absurd circumstances, to the anatomical complexity of the human body. Their realist approach to music was reflected in the projections of golf tutorials, their personal childhood videos and talking heads. Their projections aren’t separate to their music, they are a part of the music; just as equal as the guitar or keyboard.

In short, this gig was outstanding.

Vancans – What’s A Woman To Do feat. Nina Simone


Hey Ya’ll,

Just thought I’d give you a track to check out. I spotted it on my search through the numerous websites I check out each day looking for some new tunes.

If you like a bit of Ol’ School sounding soul – stuff like Etta James, mixed with a more contemporary beat and a cute hook; you will like this track. I really wish there was more of this type of music floating around in the world today. It’s a very ‘down-town hooker’ visual you get listening to this song; I was very impressed at how vividly that came across…  and I promise it’s not a reflection on anything i’m holding onto personally… bahahaha.

(I just noticed that the grapes I’m eating are spicy…wtf?)

Continuing, if you take The Avalanches, Etta James, some tight lycra pants, a cheap blonde wig and put them in a blender on high, you will undoubtedly get this track… it’s an interesting listen. Each time I listen to i’m a little more and more intrigued…

Hit it up, and let me know what you think?