Recommended Listening: February 2011
- Published: 12 February 2011
- Hits: 2333
Enjoy this month's collection of eclectic sounds.
13 February 2011
Cut Copy broke through the atmospheric dance ceiling in 2008 with their second studio release, In Ghost Colours.
Praised by Australian critics, the album also gained international recognition securing a rank in the top five best albums of the year across the US and UK.
The band’s third release, Zonoscope, is one of the most anticipated albums of 2011.
Zonoscope was recorded over six months in a warehouse space the band rented in their hometown of Melbourne.
Commenting on the band’s new album, Cut Copy front man Dan Whitford said: “All the way along we had this weird vision of a tropical, jungle, tribal sound.
“A place or an idea that we wanted to reach with some of the songwriting; to explore a looping hypnotic trance and revise the whole palette of what Cut Copy was about.”
Unlike In Ghost Colours with its sparkling 80s new wave dance floor flavour, the band’s new album has a darker feel.
‘Need You Now’ plays out like an edgy lullaby, with Whitford’s familiar tone working its way across a swell of subdued synth.
‘Take Me Over’ has a reggae feel to it with electrified congo drums and upbeat 80s dance championing its influence.
Cut Copy continues to stretch musically on ‘Where I’m Going’, with the band tackling surf rock.
The track is such a step away for the band’s previous tracks like ‘Lights & Music’ and ‘Hearts on Fire’.
Just when you think Cut Copy have ditched their famed electro sonic synth, ‘Pharaohs & Pyramids’ hits you. This is a brilliant track rich with jumpy electronica.
‘Blink and You’ll Miss a Revolution’ is pure new Cut Copy genius.
The band turns it up a notch on ‘Alisa’. The track is the most rock ‘n roll Cut Copy have been with guitar reverb an unusual inclusion for the band.
Zonoscope is a brilliant return for Cut Copy.
The band’s direction on the album is inspired with their passion and exploration of sounds.
Zonoscope will no doubt surprise many, particularly those expecting another dance floor dalliance, though it is an album of absolute promise.
The King Is Dead
In January this year, The Decemberists scored their first US number one album after almost 10 years and five studio albums together.
The closest the US band has come to a number one charting album on the Billboard 200 was two years ago with their 2009 release, ‘The Hazards of Love’ which peaked at number 14.
Considered the band’s most rustic and stripped back release to date, the album’s title ‘The King Is Dead’ is believed to play homage to The Smiths 1986 album ‘The Queen Is Dead’.
‘The King Is Dead’ is also believed to openly bare the band’s influence of R.E.M, with many of the album tracks sharing similarities to the US band - R.E.M co-founder and guitarist, Peter Buck, even appears on a number of tracks.
The Decemberists again worked with producer Tucker Martine (The Hazards of Love), however, unlike the band’s previous three offerings ‘The King Is Dead’ sees the band move away from its past interest in British folk and forge head on into traditional American folk.
‘Don’t Carry it All’ has an air of patriotism about it with the drums, finely tuned harmonica and vocals offering a stage to march on.
The guitar intro on ‘Rise To Me’ is utterly mesmerising. In fact, the whole track steals you attention from the first note.
For those familiar with The Decemberists singer Colin Meloy, it will come as little surprise his storytelling abilities are impressive. ‘January Hymn’ is yet another example of this.
It is not only Meloy’s lyrics of ‘What were the words I meant to say before you left/when I could see your breath lead where you were going to/ maybe I should just let it be and maybe it all come to me’ that give rise to his brilliance, it is the raw passion in his voice.
‘Down By The Water’ is the album’s stand out in my view. Not only because it pairs together Meloy’s vocals with fellow singer-songwriter Gillian Welch and R.E.M’s Buck, but because everything seems to fit. Every instrumental note, every vocal harmony, just flawless.
‘The King Is Dead’ is an exceptional release for The Decemberists.
Her 12 Faces
Lance Ferguson is best known as front man of Aussie funk group, The Bamboos.
What the New Zealand born artist is perhaps lesser known for is as a producer and solo musician.
‘Her 12 Faces’ is Ferguson’s new full-length studio album and follow up to his debut ‘This Is My Home’.
Ferguson first introduced his Lanu persona in the mid-2000s with his debut solo record ‘This Is My Home’ released in 2007.
‘This Is My Home’ was the producer’s first step away from the traditional funk work of The Bamboos. It explored his interest in combining together electronic and RnB samples.
Following the album’s release, Ferguson returned to tour and record with The Bamboos.
Since 2006, The Bamboos have released six studio albums, their most recent being last year’s ‘4’.
Next month, Ferguson will release his second studio album in ‘Her 12 Faces’.
The album is a return of sorts for the producer with it brimming with laidback indie pop. It also reunites Ferguson with friend and fellow Melbourne-based singer, Megan Washington.
Ferguson and Washington have spent a number of years working together on each other’s projects. The songstress took the lead vocal duties on The Bamboo’s single, ‘King Of The Rodeo’, while Ferguson is part of her band, Washington.
‘Beautiful Trash’ is the perfect lead off track for the album. It’s quite the gem.
‘Hold Me Down’ again feature’s Washington’s vocals. The track is delightful, with its gentle pop mixed with traditional string ensemble.
‘de Hotel Blume’ allows Ferguson to shine in his producer role, seamlessly mixing looping piano bars with beats and the occasional vocal. It’s a little too much on the repetitive side for my liking.
Washington returns on ‘Wire’. The tempo is picked up a tad on this track, with a cool funk vibe. The beat is thick and quite delicious.
‘Portrait in 50Hz’ has a bit of a trippy feel to it. Sounds begin as solids and then seem to peter away, drifting off into the ether.
‘The Coral Route’ is divine with its classy cinematic style.
As well as Washington’s vocals on the album, Ferguson has featured two unusual French language tracks on the album.
On the title track, ‘Her 12 Faces’, a jazz piano, bass guitar and high hat cymbal are the backdrop for a meandering female vocal. It’s definitely intriguing despite not understanding what she is saying.
Ferguson winds down the album superbly with a French language version of Roxy Music’s, ‘More Than This’.
‘Her 12 Faces’ is a brilliant second album.
Five years ago a shy producer from Brisbane posted two of his bedroom tracks on the website of Australian youth radio, TripleJ.
The move gave the producer, Yeo Choong, national exposure and a place alongside Angus & Julia Stone, Eddy Current Supression Ring, Mercy Arms, Operator Please, and Whitley on the radio station’s 2006 ‘next crop’ artist page.
In 2007, Choong released his 14-track debut album ‘Trouble Being Yourself’ independently. The decision to self-produce and release the long player was purely to prove to all he was able to.
‘Bag-o-items’ is Choong’s second studio album.
After a first listen, you could be fooled into thinking this is a straightforward funk pop record with smooth beats and a few ‘woohs’ thrown in for good measure. But if you think that, you’d be wrong.
The bass intro on ‘Hey Mr .Sound Man’ immediately puts you in Yeo’s groove. The deep drones track on for a few seconds before being joined by crashing cymbals and Choong’s vocals.
With lyrics ‘step back pick up your jaw you aint heard a motherfucker like me before/short kid with short black hair a thick rimmed glasses prescription pair it’s clear Choong is a little off the wall.
While he could come across as the new indie kid on the block that has sunk to crass levels to garner online download cred, but the further you listen, the less that seems to be the case.
Choong’s vocals on ‘Stupid Ideals’ are sensational. His grasp of soul and the importance of tempo and timing is spot on.‘The Weight I Pulled’ is quite epic in its arrangement. Starting off with a light ensemble of synth keyboard chords, the track darkens with harsher chords, live drumbeats and rock vocals.
Choong returns to his soulful groove in ‘Good Food, Music & Love’.
This track is good humoured and very clever. As the artist mentioned in his bio, he likes to address everyday activities in his music. A perfect example of this is: ‘Go get my apron cos we’re making a fun one/cooking meals with deciduous seeds/ with the chili and the garlic and onion’
‘Big Heart’ is a funny track, a tongue in cheek love letter perhaps from a boyfriend to a girlfriend. In the letter the now ex-girlfriend is told how she let her boyfriend down by not being able to cope with ‘the clothes on the flood/ the tissues on the table and the whole in the door.”
Yeo is definitely one to keep your eye on.
Fistful of Mercy
As I Call You Down
Twelve months ago, a studio jamming session between Ben Harper, Joseph Arthur and Dhani Harrison resulted in the formation of super group, Fistful of Mercy.
Internationally renowned musicians in their own right, the three came together after Arthur asked Harper to join him on his first solo studio album.
Recorded at Carriage House studio in Los Angeles, Harrison has compared working on the new project to that of his time working with his father George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison and Jim Keltner as part of The Travelling Wilburys.
‘In Vain or True’ begins with stunning acoustic guitar sounds. The chord structure is so gentle and simple. It instantly lulls you in allowing the soft harmonies of the trio to wash over.
‘I Don’t Want to Waste your Time’ continues the dreamy folk harmonies and gives the singers moments of their own airtime with stripped back solos.
‘Father’s Son’ picks up the pace a bit with a rockin blues feel. It’s just brilliant.
The album’s title track ‘Fistful of Mercy’ is the album’s standout track. The combination of instrumentals and vocal harmonies align perfectly on this track.
The acoustic beauty of the album is captured again on ’30 Bones’. The album’s only purely instrumental track is wonderous. Even without vocals there is a story being told.
‘Restore Me’ plays out a bit like a gentle giant. Starting out with a bit of a growl, the tempo drops as the soulful harmonies return.
‘Things Go ‘Round’ breaks with the trio’s traditional harmonies. Piano keys bounce along as a solo voice prances after them. A bass guitar can be heard for the first time on the record before a chorus of vocals prance about.
Hopefully this is not a one off for Fistful of Mercy, for they have struck gold with this record.
Since gaining acclaim for her second studio release, Under the Town, Holly Throsby has pushed the boundaries for an independent artist.
The album was labelled an impressive and mature release by critics and propelled Throsby into the local and international touring spotlight.
Two years later in 2008, Throsby left the comfort of Dupe’s studio for Nashville to work with Lambchop and Andrew Bird producer, Mark Nevers on her follow up record, A Loud Call.
Late last year, Throsby released ‘See!’ an album of original children's songs.
The album has been described as an alternative kids’ or ‘black sheep’ album and features Darren Hanlon, J. Walker, Jack Ladder and the singer’s mother and Australian radio personality, Margaret Throsby.
This month, Throsby releases her fifth studio album in, Team.
Working up again with Dupe, Team was recorded in a 19th Century sandstone church in Wildes Meadow, New South Wales.
The album features Throsby’s band The Hello Tigers, as well as Dupe on organ, and string arrangements and Joanna Newsom’s violinist Veronique Serret.
‘What I Thought of You’ is a sweetly paired back track from Throsby. Beautiful acoustic guitar chords trickle along before the singer’s trademark harmonised vocals take control.
‘It’s Only Need’ is simply beautiful. Throsby has an instant calm about her that swells with every string accompaniment and piano key.
‘Here Is My Co-Pilot’ is a switch in gear for the singer. Multiple guitar loops and quirky vocal layers create a fun and instantly likeable track.
A sombre mood cloaks ‘It’s Funny’. Throsby’s vocals are incredible on this track, so intense, such much light and shade. She really is at home among a cello and simple drumming.
Throsby takes a back seat on ‘Waiting For Me’ with stunning acoustic guitar picking taking centre stage. The singer’s vocals sound a little richer on this track, a little fuller perhaps, and at times almost don’t sound like her at all. After searching around to see if Throsby collaborated on the album with any other vocalists, an article revealed that not only did Throsby record all the vocals on the album, she recorded them live and at times selected the first take.
“It just always sounds better in the right kind of way, even if it's not the most polished take,” the singer told gaga.com.au.
Team is earnest and brilliant. Throsby is a true talent.
Music reviews by Kate Kachor at Eleven Magazine