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Back You are here: Home Reviews Music Recommended Listening: December 2010 and January 2011

Recommended Listening: December 2010 and January 2011

MusicgenericEnjoy this month's collection of eclectic sounds.





 

 

 

 

 

He Will Have His Way
Various
EMI

HWHHW_cover-artThe songs from Crowded House and Split Enz put New Zealand brothers Tim and Neil Finn front and centre under the global spotlight.

The pair, with their unique lyrical observations and brand of off-beat pop and soft ballads has been celebrated ever since their singles first gained airplay.

From ‘Joe average’ whistling their tunes, or singing along to them while in the car, to internationally renowned artists performing cover versions, there has been a conscious effort to keep the Finn brothers’ music alive.

In 2007, a collaboration of female Australian artists released a tribute album to the brothers in ‘She Will Have Her Way - the songs of Tim and Neil Finn’.

The album brought together singers such as Clare Bowditch, Missy Higgins, Sarah Blasko, New Buffalo, Natalie Imbruglia, Little Birdy, Renee Geyer and Holly Throsby.Three years later, a male artist version has been released under the title ‘He Will Have His Way’.

Melbourne outfit Oh Mercy kept it simple with their version of ‘I Feel Possessed’. Their version is quaint and quite dreamy.

The Living End front man Chris Cheney embraced his rocker style on his version of ‘Distant Sun’. While Cheney rules the track with a harsher voice than Neil’s original, the edgier version works well. The single is raw with emotion as though it has been recorded live and left unpolished.

Sydney five-piece, Boy & Bear, have a touch of the Jose Gonzalez on ‘Fall At Your Feet’. This version is fantastic, with its folk style swelling with heady vocals and strong instrumental backing.

‘Four Seasons In One Day’ is music history in its self. Two of the country’s impressive songwriters, veteran Paul Kelly and slight newcomer, Angus Stone, pair together beautifully on this track. Splitting vocal duties at first, the two harmonise perfectly together. This is the highlight of the album.

Glenn Richards continues his step away from Augie March by recording a fun and upbeat version of ‘She Got Body, She Got Soul’.

Sydney outfit Art vs Science let loose on ‘I See Red’.

Luke Steele revived his Perth band The Sleepy Jackson for a version of ‘Better Be Home Soon’. The track is a standout for a few reasons. Not only is it the only track on the album that has stepped out (in this case smashed) the Finn mould, it is the first single Steele has released under the Sleepy Jackson moniker since morphing into Empire of The Sun.

Perhaps in preparation for the single not being to everyone’s taste, there is another version of the song on this record.

Busby Marou recorded a more traditional version of the song to great effect. Marou has a tremendous voice and does the track justice.

He Will Have His Way is a perfect brother album and does a fantastic job of breathing new life into Finn classics.


Sufjan Stevens

The Age of Adz

Virgin/Spunk

Sufjan_Stevens_cover-artSufjan Stevens is no stranger to gaining inspiration from his surroundings.

The American singer shot to prominence five years ago following the release of ‘Illinois’, an epic concept album recorded as part of the singer’s planned ‘fifty states project’.

In 2004, Stevens announced he intended to write an album for each of the fifty US states. He released the first in the series, Michigan, in 2004, with Illinois following the next year.

Since 2005, Stevens has helmed a number of projects including the 2007 work, ‘The BOQ’ – a mixed-medium exploration of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway; and his most recent 2010 EP ‘All Delighted People’.

Despite touring extensively and delivering a number of physical albums, Stevens’ latest release, The Age of Adz’ is his first full-length studio record in five years.

The album takes its inspiration from Louisiana artist Royal Robertson.

Robertson, the self-proclaimed ‘Prophet Royal Robertson’, worked with materials like poster board and paper or wood using pens, glitter, markers, and coloured pencils.

He is believed to have suffered schizophrenia and died suddenly in 1997 at age 60.

In an interview with online publication, Eyeweekly, Stevens admitted his fascination with Robertson’s work was because of the quality the artist was able to produce with such primitive material.

“His work is really graphic, and it’s full of anger, but it’s also full of sorrow, and I found him really inspiring because he seemed to be a really tragic figure,” the singer said.

“But in spite of his mental health, his circumstances and his poverty, he found joy in creating his work. It consumed him, but it also kept him alive.”

The album begins with ‘Futile Devices’, a beautiful track that is awash with sentimental melody. The mostly instrumental piece is so peaceful and quiet. Stevens whispers his vocals across the track as though the lyrics are to be kept a secret.

‘Too Much’ is immediately chaotic with an almost twitching of sound hitting you with a solid punch. Stevens settles the noise with simple lyrics. The track, with its multiple noises could be a bit of a throw back to Robertson’s mental state. The noises, the voices, fly in what appear to be different direction. The chaos is beautiful without being too extreme.

‘Age of Adz’ (pronounced ‘Age of Odds’) is a brilliant mess of sound. Trilling flutes, car horns, and sliding trombone notes flick around Stevens vocals.

A cloak of calm falls upon ‘Now That I’m Older’. A choir of voices swells as the track progresses. It is a beautiful, stirring piece of music.

‘All For Myself’ is a smorgasbord of music. Layers of samples intertwine with Stevens lyrics. The track builds and drops like a set of waves, crashing and repeating in perfect rhythm.

The Age of Adz proves yet again why Stevens is such a talent.

 

Muscles
Younger & Immature EP
Modular People

muscles_cover-artMuscles is a feisty fellow.

Three years ago the Melbourne artist aka Chris Copulos released his debut album ‘Guns Babes Lemonade’.

The album was a cocky first release that put Muscles up in lights.

The album entered the Australian ARIA album chart at number 14, reaching number three on the Australian artist chart and number one on the dance album chart in its first week.

The success of the album propelled the singer into a lengthy period of tour frenzy.

Since 2007, Muscles has performed alongside Midnight Juggernauts and Ajax at a Sydney Festival gig, he has supported Hot Chip, Jenny Wilson, opened the first Golden Plains Festival and performed at Australia’s first V Festival.

As well as touring locally, the singer has toured internationally, supporting Cut Copy and The Presets in Japan. He has also toured the UK playing a number of club shows.

Interestingly, despite its name, Muscles’ Younger & Immature EP is a more grown up and evolved release than his debut.

Lead off single ‘Forever’ relies heavily on space-like samples with Muscles’ multi-layered vocals nicely travelling through the hyper space of sound.

‘Girl Crazy Go’ continues the spaced-out theme, this time with a bit more flare.

‘Love Struck’ is a stand out with Muscles finding his stride. Amid his trademark droning vocals, upbeat dance melody echo through.

‘Beat the Rush’ offers a torrential downpour of blips and high pitched samples. Keyboard synth cuts through the flood carving out a journey for the listener. The track has an almost purely instrumental focus (save a few drawn out ‘oohs’ here and there). It is a nice break from Muscles’ quick wit and at times harsh voice. It is also perhaps offers a glimpse of a new direction for the artist.

‘Northern Beaches’ is a fun track that has Muscles nicely harmonise with himself through vocal loops.

Muscles’ Younger & Immature EP is a nice taster for hopefully the artist’s full-length second album.

 

Duffy
Endlessly
Mercury

duffy_cover_artDuffy has mended her lyrical heartbreak somewhat on her new album.

The Welsh singer aka Aimée Ann Duffy rocketed to fame with her 2008 debut record ‘Rockferry’ with her Dusty Springfield and Amy Winehouse similarities.

The album was a sensation globally with the singer breaking a number of records, including becoming the first Welsh singer to achieve a number one pop single on the UK singles chart in 25 years for her 2008 track ‘Mercy’.

In January this year, Duffy’s career stalled when the singer and her management, Rough Trade Management, parted ways.

In a statement from the singer’s new management, A&M/Universal, the reason behind the split was simply that “the professional relationship between Duffy and Rough Trade management has run its course.”

Duffy’s new album, Endlessly, was announced in September, with news she had recorded the album in New York, London and Spain.

For the new album, Duffy formed a song writing partnership with Strokes member Albert Hammond. An artist in his own right, Hammond also assumed producer duties on Endlessly.

The opening track on the album, ‘My Boy’, immediately reveals a bolder direction for Duffy. With edgier vocals there is a definite flow of attitude on the single. Duffy has left behind her ‘little girl lost’ persona and finds herself tongue in cheek fighting for her younger man.

‘Too Hurt To Dance’ is utterly superb, pure and simple.

‘Keeping My Baby’ takes us on a lyrical journey. This song is quite compelling with Duffy’s voice taking us through the twists and turns of a woman facing life alone after choosing to keep an accidental pregnancy. The song has a bit of a sombre feel, with the singer giving a beautiful performance.

‘Breath Away’ is very gentle in its delivery with Duffy the centrepiece. Soft backing vocals, simple drums, strings and guitar chords drift nicely alongside the singer's voice.

‘Love Struck’ is perhaps the album’s failing. Duffy’s attempt at pop isn’t entirely flop worthy, it more comes down to the fact that not all elements create the right spark.

‘Girl’ is a fun, jumping, upbeat ditty. While much of the album (not all) has relied on Duffy to carry the arrangement, the instrumental backing on this track is first class.

‘Hard for the heart’ is very lovely. The gentleness of the track is continued by Duffy. The track is a potential hark back to emotions felt in the singer’s previous album track, Warwick Avenue.

Endlessly is quite obviously the difficult second album. Rockferry is an incredibly difficult act to follow. It was recorded before her star rose to today’s height and therefore the singer did not experience the pressure of a follow-up record.

In saying that however, Endlessly does have some fantastic moments. After all, Duffy is an incredible talent.


Wons Phreely
Tonight EP
Ivy League

wons_phreely_cover-artJustin Wonsley Snowball is a name you would be forgiven for not immediately recognising.

Snowball is a Perth artist gaining increased momentum across the country under the moniker Wons Phreely.

Three years ago Phreely released the EP ‘The Rules Of Nature’, and in May this year signed to local independent label, Ivy League Records.

Late last month, the artist released his latest EP ‘Tonight’.

The title track brims with potential. A bubble of cool indie drums, guitars and vocals builds to a sweet chorus.

‘The world has a bank account’ is a muddle of vocals and eclectic sounds. It has a hint of the Dan Kelly about it, with quirky style and lyrics.

‘D.I.S.C.O’ is a fun track that has a heavy focus on a dance beat and reverb. Phreely’s vocals are somewhat reminiscent to Javis Cocker circa Pulp.

‘Instalment’ is the EP’s first slow track. It is also the shortest at 35 seconds with its flood of vocals that hit you with a gentle bump.

‘The Romancer (bank to the beginning)’ has a fantastic chorus. Phreely has tightly bound together layers of different samples, including vocals, to create the single’s electronic ‘wall of sound’ feel.

‘Tonight’ is short and sharp, a perfect teaser for Phreely’s next project – a new studio album.


elevenlogo300Music reviews by Kate Kachor at Eleven Magazine

 

 

 








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