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Back You are here: Home Reviews Music Recommended Listening: August 2010

Recommended Listening: August 2010

MusicgenericEnjoy this month's collection of eclectic sounds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amanda Palmer
Performs the popular hits of Radiohead on her magical ukulele
Independent

amanda-palmer-coverIn April this year, Amanda Palmer took to her computer keyboard with renewed vigor.

Though rather than compose a masterpiece for an upcoming album, the singer of US band The Dresden Dolls wrote about freedom and relief.

After a two-year battle, the singer had finally been released from her contract with record label, Roadrunner Records.

It turns out that since the early 2000s, Palmer had been struggling with the lack of creative control over her music. It had come to a head, but now she was free. She could record and release whatever she liked.

This EP is Palmer’s first release as a free artist.

Accompanied by her ‘magical’ ukulele, Palmer has released a seven-track EP covering Radiohead songs.

After you get past the novelty of the ukulele the album is quite good.

While it should be little surprise that Palmer could pull off an album like this with her theatrical past and over the top antics with The Dresden Dolls, when it comes to a band like Radiohead, the chance of failure is still pretty high.

Palmer’s take on ‘Fake Plastic Trees’ is simple yet gentle and very sweet.

The ukulele is working overtime on ‘High and Dry’, with the deft strokes of a piano peppering the track beautifully.

The vocal range of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke really tests Palmer on ‘No Surprises’. She almost loses it on the low vocals in the early part of the track though does well to gather herself. While a lot of depth is lost in the translation, it is an impressive effort.

‘Idiotqeue’ was always going to be a difficult one to cover with the complicated and complex multi layers. It’s a good effort though probably the most patchy of the covers.

Palmer really nailed the cover of ‘Creep’. Her voice really responded to the emotion of the song with the ukulele offering a strangely subtle accompaniment.

There is no doubt this album is a little out there. Yet isn’t that the point? For an artist who has spent close to a decade without creative control, she has produced and released work that I very much doubt any major record label would have touched without losing her passion or intent.

The Bank Holidays
Sail becomes a kite

The Lost & Lonesome Recordings

thebankholidays_coverThe Bank Holidays have finally come in out of the sun.

The carefree summer fun captured on the Perth band’s previous releases ‘As a Film’ and ‘Good Looks To Camera’ has been replaced with the flickering warmth of a winter fire.

There is no chill in the air on this release. The Bank Holidays continue their superb recordings of sounds well before their time.

Lead track ‘Tripping up to fall in love’ immediately alerts you to the band’s shift in sound. Gone is the happy-chappy sing song pace and feel. Smooth notes and delicate harmonies are the new order.

‘Save Silence’ is a beautifully stripped back offering with the key focus on Bekk Reczek’s wafting vocals.

‘His Majesty’s Voice’ offers a giddy ride for the listener, tripping back to the swinging ‘60s of the ‘Dandys’.

‘Sail becomes a kite’ is interestingly for many reasons. It is the shortest song on the 12-track release and seems to provide a bit of an interval of sorts. It is also the only song on the album without instrumental. The band has relied entirely on their own voices for almost all of its duration.

‘Oxford Street’ hits you with a clang of drums. It has hints of Bank Holidays of old, with its up tempo and intertwining vocals.

‘Through the trees’ returns the band back to their winter cocoon. This track is quite beautiful from a melodic point of view, though the lyrics are a little underwhelming and at times a little nonsensical: ‘the voice inside of me/the voice inside of me is a ghost/ the voice inside of me is almost close/ the voice inside of me keeps memories’.

‘Gravity’s Playthings’ begins with a stunning couple of bars of guitar strumming. Soft strings echo across the track with a dramatic thud of drum breaking through the beauty.

There is so much to like about this album. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but there is a gentle quiet beauty about it that should be experienced.

Cabin
Bright Victory
Ivy League

cabins_cover-artMini albums are always a bit of fun, and Cabin’s release ‘Bright Victory’ is no exception.

The debut release from the Sydney outfit is a solid offering.

With its dark and at times menacing sound, Cabin does a good job of offering something that’s a bit left of centre.

The band has kept it a local affair with the recording and producing of the mini album done in Australia.

Woody Annison (Red Riders, Children Collide) took on producer duties on the release, and his experience and influence can immediately be heard.

‘Hounds’ has a bit of mystery about it. The overuse of bass guitar and distorted guitars propels the track from an ordinary guitar track into something with a bit more punch.

‘Catcher in the rye’ is the album’s best in my opinion. It’s dirty, dark and a little bit dangerous with sharp edge sounds.

‘Mary’ is raucous and brash. With snarling guitars and spat out vocals it would no doubt be a winner on the live scene.

‘The Moon’ has a preacher element about it. It offers a slow tempo and an emphasis on moody vocals that demand you to listen rather than ask.

‘Father Ripper’ leads the band down a little psychedelic path. The heavy guitars and slamming drums are stripped back. Even the vocals are a little more delicate. It’s quite a different track for the album. Not sure if it sits in with the others yet maybe it’s a direction the band picked up while on the road.

Cabins’ ‘Bright Victory’ is by all accounts an impressive debut.

The Boat People
Dear Darkly

Independent

boatpeople_coverIt is not an unusual occurrence to see an online post from a band putting forward a cheeky plea to fans to buy their album.

Though a note left on The Boat People’s website about their new album, Dear Darkly, was a little out of the ordinary.

In the post, band member Robin Waters, doesn’t call for high praise for their new album, but merely calls on those who have ever heard the band and been affected by their music to take time to really listen to their latest album.

“If ever in the past our music has made you feel something, made you feel happy perhaps, if we have ever been a part of your life and thoughts or if you have ever been part of ours (and there are many who have), please now take the time to buy a copy of Dear Darkly, hold it in your hands and listen to it because this is the album that is finally us and we want more than anything to share it with you, for you to take it home and discover what remains there beyond anything that might be happened upon via idle curiosity or what you may already have heard in passing,” Waters wrote.

The Boat People or The Boaties as they are affectionately known released their debut album in 2005. The album Yesyesyesyesyes was a good start for the band, with national Australian youth broadcaster, Triple J picking up two singles ‘Unsettle My Heart’ and ‘Clean’.

In 2008, the band released their second studio release, Chandeliers. Cue further kudos.

However it wasn’t until this year that the band released what Waters says is the real Boat People.

Dear Darkly is a muddle of sound for the most part.

When the album is played in its official order it sounds very jumbled with each track sounding out of synch with each other.

Though it wouldn’t be that unusual for these guys to have arranged the album with such a move in mind.

‘Under The Ocean’ is tight and nicely polished. It seems to be the most seamless of all the album’s tracks. As though the song came together in minutes. Everything just fits together perfectly.

‘Soporific’ starts off in a similar vein as ‘Under The Ocean’, tight harmonies with stunning guitar work. It’s a little rough in the middle of the track with perhaps one too many key changes, though further guitar work manages to help pull it together.

‘Antidote’ picks up the pace with vocals given a backseat for a moment with guitars and drums taking control.

‘Live In The Dark’ is best described as a slow burner.

‘Dance To My Pain’ is quite the gem. This track has great pace with a great build up towards the chorus.

Dear Darkly is indeed an eclectic release, and in parts I found the arrangement of tracks a little trying, though it is worth a listen.

Sia
We are born
Inertia

sia_coverIt has taken close to six years for this album to be released.

Sia aka Sia Furler had envisaged releasing We Are Born as the follow up to her 2004 record Colour the Small One; however, her record company had other ideas.

At the time, the company line was quite simple – the shift in style the record offered would upset the bubbling success the Adelaide-born singer had created.

Since the release of her 2001 debut Healing is Difficult, Sia had been cast in the mould as the damaged damsel with an angelic voice or less dramatically, a ‘downtempo’ artist.

With the release of her second album, 2004’s Colour the Small One, Sia’s fate was sealed. Her quiet breathy vocals mixed with acoustic instruments and piano accompaniment was not only mesmerizing but it created a whimsical antidote for the angst-ridden. In short, it had wide appeal.

It was four years before Sia released her 2008 studio album Some People Have Real Problems.

It ticked all the record label boxes, with Sia doing her best to push outside the boundaries where she could.

However, it wasn’t until the singer split with her US label late last year that she was finally free to release We Are Born.

Since its release, the album has charted in more than 10 countries across the globe, with the album hitting second place in the Australian charts (to offer a comparison, Sia’s previous album peaked on the local charts in the 41 spot).

Lead-off single and title track ‘We Are Born’ is instantly likeable, with its catchy, dare I say it, upbeat melody.

The single’s anthem chorus of ‘we made it through the darkness to the light/so hard we fought but still we won the fight/yes we stand together’ would not lost on Sia’s previous record label reps who are surely busy still kicking themselves for letting this talent walk.

‘Clap Your Hands’ is simple brilliance. It’s an uncomplicated pop song.

‘Be Good To Me’ is the album’s few slower tracks. It is quite reminiscent of material from Some People Have Real Problems with its tenderness.

‘Never Gonna Leave Me’ is perhaps the most upbeat on the album with mainstream hooks and cute lyrics to turn any pop princess green with envy.

‘Cloud’ is the absolute standout for me. For a rather simple track in terms of lyrics, there are a myriad of layers that just envelop you.

Sia injected new life into Madonna’s 1989 single ‘Oh Father’. It is almost unrecogniseable.

We Are Born is sublime.

 

elevenlogo300Music reviews by Kate Kachor at Eleven Magazine

 

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