Recommended Listening: September 2010
- Published: 11 September 2010
- Hits: 2361
Enjoy this month's collection of eclectic sounds.
In February this year, The Killers shocked the music world by declaring they would take a break.
The US band, fronted by Brandon Flowers, collectively stated that six years on the road and recording without time off had finally taken its toll. Yet the band was very quick to confirm a break did not mean a complete split.
Weeks after the announcement, whispers began surfacing that Flowers had a solo album in the works.
The Killers, the band’s label and Flowers himself all initially denied there was such an album.
Then an undisclosed illness forced the band to cancel a number of its Australian shows, including a headlining spot at the Good Vibrations Festival.
The rumour mill was thrown into overdrive. What was happening in camp Killers?
For Flowers the unthinkable had happened. His mother had died after loosing her battle with brain cancer. The music world stood still, awaiting his next move. Enter Flamingo.
Flamingo is quite simply a triumph.
‘Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas’ continues Flowers’ love affair with his hometown. Like the homage he and his band paid the US city on their Sam’s Town release, this track is a sweet acknowledgement.
For a city known outwardly as Sin City for its wall-to-wall gambling and tacky paraphernalia, Flowers’ single makes the city sound like the most incredible, fantastical place in the world. We want to go to there.
‘Only the Young’ is Flowers at his best. The track is quite simple in its delivery, with the main focus on Flowers’ vocals, though there is a presence about it. I know that sounds rather odd, but have a listen.
There’s just something that draws you in. Perhaps it’s the chorus? Or the melody? There is just something about this track that sticks with you. A calm beauty.
‘Jilted Loves & Broken Hearts’ is a fun and upbeat track. It is not unlike a track Flowers would have released with his Killers band mates.
‘Playing With Fire’ is a nice change of pace. The central focus of the single is beautiful guitar work, gentle drum strokes and Flowers’ borderline preacher lyrics.
‘Magdalena’ echoes Flowers’ religious bent quite prominently. While he has never hidden the importance of his religion (Flowers is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) lyrics such as ‘prodigal sons and wayward daughters carry mandalas that they might/delivered from the depths of darkness and born again by candlelight’ offers an insight.
The first single off the album, ‘Crossfire’ was quite the introduction for Flowers. There is just so much passion in the track, so much feeling that can not, nor sure it, be overlooked.
Flamingo is an incredible first release for Flowers. Even though he has many Killer releases under his belt, a solo album still has its risks. However, with such quality behind him (a number of his Killer band mates helped out on the album) and his own ability, Flowers had no trouble delivering a work of genius.
Clare Bowditch and The New Slang
Modern Day Addiction
Two years ago Clare Bowditch packed up her Melbourne life and relocated to Berlin.
The Aussie singer and her musician husband Marty Brown (Art of Fighting, Sodastream) along with their children jetted off to Europe to follow touring opportunities on the back of the international release of Bowditch’s 2007 record, The Moon Looked On.
Since 2003, Bowditch has released eight records - including EPs and full-length albums - with the band ‘The Feeding Set’.
The band’s sound has been described as indie folk pop.
Since her time in Berlin, Bowditch and The Feeding Set have been on hiatus.
The singer’s time overseas not only gave her exposure to a new audience, it provided her with a change in direction.
Late last month Bowditch released a new album with a reshuffled Feeding Set line-up called The New Slang.
The album, Modern Day Addiction, was recorded with Mocky (Feist, Gonzales, Jamie Lidell, Peaches) at Hansa studios in Berlin.
‘The Start of War’ kicks off the album. Right from the moment you hear the intro you know Bowditch has shifted out of her comfort zone.
For starters there isn’t a hint of acoustic guitar or the singer’s familiar breathy vocals. Instead we are greeted with a keyboard, high-speed drumming and multi-layered vocals that clamber over each other in a trippy singsong manner creating a smooth wall of sound.
The title track ‘Modern Day Addiction’ offers yet another change in style, with the introduction of backing vocals or as Bowditch as coined them her ‘lady garden’.
The ‘lady garden’ are three singers from accapella band Aluka.
‘A Lucky Life’ hits you with heavy thumping sounds and the lyrics ‘We want to give god’. It’s all rather ominous, though this track would have to be one of the most memorable. Perhaps it’s the melodies? Or perhaps I’m being a touch sentimental as this is one of the few stripped back tracks on the album.
‘Bigger Than The Money’ is possibly Bowditch’s first attempt at pop rock. Blaring bass mixed with thrashing drums are a nice surprise. Bowditch has certainly shelved her gentile style. Yet the most impressive thing about this single is the chorus. Big, bold, brash. It’s just a stunning jumble of increasing vocals. Completely infectious.
‘A Little History (Homage to My Dad Two)’ is a bit of a return for Bowditch. She wrote a song on her 2003 debut album ‘Autumn Bone’ called ‘Homage to my Dad and the ABC’. The track is simply beautiful. Bowditch has quite the talent of taking rather every day, seemingly unimportant facts and memories and creating quite a masterpiece.
‘I think I lost my product’ is a little on the random side. While it’s surely a tongue in cheek release that did make me chuckle with lyrics like ‘Cos ladies like me have got to walk the TV/They’ve got to dance my pants off/and one of the things that makes me have confidence and dance really really well is my hair/my hair, the stillness of my hair must be right’ it didn’t really fit in with the rest of the album.
Yet, that is the fun of Bowditch. Not only is she a sublime talent as a singer and songwriter, she doesn’t take herself too seriously.
Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse presents
Dark Night of the Soul
The brainchild of former producer and artist Sparklehorse aka Mark Linkous, the album’s release has been cloaked in delay and untimely tragedy.
Linkous recorded the album with fellow producer Danger Mouse, American director David Lynch and 10 other artists in late 2008.
The album was released online in May last year, though a legal dispute between the collaborators and record label, EMI, allegedly over contract arrangements between Dangermouse aka Brian Joseph Burton and another label, stalled the album’s release.
A book of photographs by Lynch was released in May 2009 with a blank CD in place of the official album and a note about the legal difficulties.
The album was due for its official release this year, though was stalled again following Linkous’ death. He took his own life in May 2010.
In April this year, Linkous’ family gave the album the go-ahead.
“Mark felt that it was an honor to be able to collaborate with so many of the artists on this record,” a family statement said.
“His time and dedication to this project was immense and his hopes for its release are finally being realised. We are glad that people will now be able to hear these songs and know the beautiful gift that Mark shared with all of us through his music.”
Commenting on the release, Burton said: “I told Mark that we’d worked things out with EMI back in January and he was very happy that the album was finally going to be released this year.
“Mark meant a great deal to a lot of people and I’m grateful to have made music with him and to be a part of his legacy.”
The Flaming Lips, Gruff Rhys, Jason Lytle, Julian Casablancas, Black Francis, Iggy Pop, David Lynch, James Mercer, Nina Persson, Suzanne Vega and Vic Chesnutt feature on the album.
The album is dedicated to Linkous as well as Chesnutt who died of an overdose in December last year.
It’s difficult to fully understand and appreciate this release as so much has happened to many of its key players.
However, the genius mind state of Linkous, Burton and Lynch’s is clear.
Dark Night of the Soul will surely become an incredible piece of music history.
Late last year, The Like announced a line-up change.
The American all girl band best known for their indie pop ditties had parted ways with one of their original members and had gone from a trio to a four-piece.
Though that wasn’t the only change the band undertook.
However rather than return to modern indie styles, The Like employed the services of producer Mark Ronson and delivered Release Me, an apparent homage to 60s girl bands.
The record was an unusual move by the band. Though from all accounts, the album is not a concept release, but simply a change in direction.
Think UK singer’s Duffy and Adele with a bit more punch.
The album itself is essentially flawless.
‘Wishing He was Dead’ is sassy with the lead vocals and backing vocals superb.
‘He’s Not A Boy’ is catchy and fun, with the lyrics offered a slightly modern twist.
Title track ‘Release Me’ has a fantastic opening with a chugging organ and vocals brushed with a ‘come-here-go-away’ attitude.
‘I Can See it in Your Eyes’ is again a brilliant release. A pattern is surely forming.
What is instantly noticeable about this album is that it’s just so good. The band’s sound, their style, their delivery, it’s all there.
Though, there is an obvious elephant in the room. Is this album a concept release? Or is this The Like’s new style?
The Like formed in 2001 when members Elizabeth Berg, Charlotte Froom and Tennessee Thomas were in their mid-teens.
Since the release of their 2005 debut album ‘Are You Thinking What I’m Thinking?’, The Like have been the darlings of the indie touring scene, sharing the stage with Phantom Planet, Kings of Leon, Muse and Razorlight to name but a few.
They have been a constant on the alternative scene. They are known and noticed. US designer Zac Polson is believed to have approached the band to use them in his fashion campaign for his ready-to-wear line for the Target chain. It’s all very, very. Though, what about their music?
In the five years since their last album, The Like have been more about their presence than their sound. I hope I’m wrong and The Like are around for years to come, with albums, concept or otherwise, littering the charts.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe they are a true talent, and this album is an absolute standout. I just wonder, is it all just a gimmick?
Hot Mama Vibes
Four years ago Ash Grunwald took his career in his own hands.
The Melbourne singer and songwriter launched his own label, Delta Groove, and released his fourth long-player himself. At the time it was considered a brave and even bold move.
At the time, Grunwald was making a name for himself on youth national radio network, Triple J, hosting the Roots N All show.
Perhaps it was his time at the independent broadcaster that gave him what he needed to take the plunge, but a year after working with Triple J, in 2006, Grunwald stood on his own.
As an independent artist the move not only allowed him to set his own agenda, it gave him the ability to meld together two of his loves – blues and electronica.
"Mixing electronica with the blues was always a dream of mine," he said of the new album.
"On the first album I was really trying to strip it back to raw elements, just be as soulful as possible. I guess every album since then has been a gradual move towards this point.
"It's not something I would have put out there in the past. I would have constrained myself; I wouldn't have felt comfortable. This is my fifth album so it was time to just launch in there, do whatever I felt like."
Hot Mama Vibes is an impressive release from the 10-year veteran.
The lead off track ‘Walking’ is dark and dirty without being menacing. It’s all about the guitar, pure and simple.
‘Hot Mama’ is more soul and funk than Grunwald’s traditional blues vibe. The inclusion of electronica, though subtle, works well with Grunwald’s vocals.
Grunwald goes for broke on ‘Love Me’. He’s in his element, with his vocals scratching across the track like a spider sauntering along its web openly teasing its prey.
The slide guitar is all oiled up for ‘Born For Good Luck’. Grunwald has adopted an effect to his vocals on this track. It’s a simple change though what a difference.
‘Mind Playing Tricks’ is a blue-grass offering, with an almost hillbilly barn dance style.
‘Never Let You Go’ returns Grunwald back to the soul train. The stripped back, slowed down track is peppered with sweet keyboard notes.
‘Parents’ is the album stand out in my book. The single features Funkoars and perfectly mashes Grunwald’s blues guitar with hip-hop and electronica. It’s an unusual mix and there are at times too many elements all thrown in together. Though, it’s an incredible sound that it’s hard to turn away.
Grunwald has found his true self with Hot Mama Vibes. After years of proving himself as a pure blues and roots artist, the album easily shows him as an artist with the grace and ability to adapt other genres.
Music reviews by Kate Kachor at Eleven Magazine