Recommended Listening: June 2011
- Published: 10 June 2011
- Hits: 2487
Enjoy this month's collection of eclectic sounds.
11 June 2011
Tex Perkins and The Dark Horses
More than a decade ago, Tex Perkins and The Dark Horses came into being.Despite forming out of obligation to fulfil a recording contract, the band has since released five albums, including their latest self-titled offering.
The band of Perkins, Jim Elliot, Joel Silbersher, Murray Paterson and Skritch Needham teamed together to release their debut release ‘Far Be It From Me’ in 1996.Four years later, the band released their self-titled second album ‘Dark Horses’, which was re-released in 2001 with a bonus disc.
In 2003, the band released their seminal record, ‘Sweet Nothing’.At the time of the album’s release, Perkins said the musical direction of the band was likened to an artist moving away from “portraiture to landscape”.
“To me, this isn't another journey to the interior, this feels like standing on the outside looking out,” the singer and songwriter said.
The band’s new album will come as a surprise to many, particularly after Perkins announced in August 2006 on ABC2's Dig program that Dark Horses and his previous musical incarnation the Cruel Sea had called it a day.Perkins aka Gregory Steven Perkins is best known for The Cruel Sea, The Beasts of Bourbon, collaborator on the Tex, Don and Charlie and joining fellow Aussie rock veteran Tim Rogers (You Am I) on the cheeky outfit, TnT project.
Perkins teamed with long-time collaborator Charlie Owen, Silbersher as well as two new members, bassist Steve Hadley and drummer Gus Agars on the latest Dark Horses album.‘What Do You Want Now’ is a slow burning opener. It is a real scene setter, with scratchy guitar strumming lightly colliding with percussion. Perkin’s gravely voice is calm and quite comforting without loosing any of his trademark strength of sound.
The brilliant intro of ‘Life Gets In The Way’ is an instant standout. Slightly heavy drums are joined by a chorus of guitars including perhaps a cheery bango. The musical strength and tightness of The Dark Horses is very evident on this track.There is a degree of sombreness to ‘Looking At You But Seeing Her’. Perkins’ voice plays more of an immediate focal point on this track, nicely trailed by a single guitar. The pace of this track is perfectly measured, the feeling of sorrow and sense of regret is carried throughout.
A lengthy percussion and guitar intro captivates on ‘Word to Come’. This track is the absolute standout in my view. There is something so incredibly raw and open about this track. Perkins’ vocals are also a standout, with his deep, booming voice still so effective even in a stripped back mode.The guitar work on ‘You Haunt Me’ is just stunning.
‘Three Guitars’ is exactly that, three guitars performing in unison. It is quite an incredible track.Tex Perkins and The Dark Horses’ new album is quite simply brilliant. Perkins’ ability behind the microphone is almost unmatched and the talent displayed by fellow band members really pushes this album close to perfection. It is in my view, one of the best releases for 2011.
Sons & Daughters
The Scottish band teamed with friend and producer Keith McIvor from Optimo Music on their new album ‘Mirror, Mirror’, while Gareth Jones (Depeche Mode, These New Puritans) acted as engineer.“We knew someone like Keith could be really honest with us,” band member Scott Paterson said.
“He has great taste in music, and we also knew we wanted to start using electronics, and he’s really into his dance music”.The band's line-up at first included Adele Bethel, David Gow and Ailidh Lennon.
After Paterson was added as a second vocalist, the band toured and released their self-funded debut album 'Love the Cup' in 2003.Two years later, the band released their second album 'The Repulsion Box'.
A year later, Sons and Daughters joined UK icon Morrissey on his UK tour.In 2008, the band released their third album 'The Gift'.
The idea for Sons and Daughters was conceived while on tour with Arab Strap in 2001.The band’s name was conceived out of a dream by singer Adele Bethel.
“Bob Dylan was standing in her back garden singing 'The Times They Are-A Changing,' and she woke up immediately after he sang the line, 'Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command.' And the name just stuck from there,” Paterson said.The band looked back at their previous albums for inspiration for ‘Mirror Mirror’.
“We sound better when we’re more minimal. We wanted everything on the new album to be necessary, no added fluff, and only recording on 16-track,” Paterson said.Paterson’s comments about no added fluff are pretty accurate.
‘Silver Spell’ opens with an eerie whistling sound followed by muted clapping and stomping. It creates quite an ominous atmosphere, leaving the listening perhaps thinking ‘where is this going?’The vocals of Bethel and Paterson cut the tension. Their tribal drone sounds perpetuate the general feeling of uneasy on this track, though their inclusion hypes up drama of the track’s sound.
‘The Model’ is a little more upbeat, with the claps and stomping absent from this track. Bethel is the main vocal on this track, her attitude soaked voice bouncing around different octaves.On ‘Breaking Fun’, Paterson channels 80s grunge rock, while Bethel lends a hand in the form of breathy backup vocals.
‘Ink Free’ is a very eclectic track with the band showing their experimental side.‘Rose Red’ has one of the best choruses on the album, big sound, fast paced and so much energy.
The scratching guitar work and drumming offers a solid introduction to ‘Axed Actor’. Like much of this album, Sons and Daughters favour the use of alternating between their lead singers.‘The Beach’ begins with the sound of trickling rain. Drops of water is a constantly on this track which centres on ethereal vocals and soft guitar chords, that is until Paterson’s vocals interrupt the track abruptly like a runaway train passing a station.
‘Mirror Mirror’ is an abstract release from Sons and Daughters that delivers on the promise of no added fluff.
Papa Vs Pretty
United In Isolation
Rawle wrote and recorded the debut album with friends and Papa vs Pretty band mates, Angus Gardiner and Tom Myers.Papa Vs Pretty recorded the album with producer and engineer Paul McKercher (You Am I, Augie March, Sarah Blasko) and mixed by Scott Horscroft (Silverchair, Little Red, The Presets).
Commenting on the album, Rawle said: “This album was written over the space of a few months and recorded over two months between BJB and Oceanic studios, it has a main focal point lyrically and was all written about the one thing.“It’s almost a concept album in that sense. In a very broad sense it’s about human natures desire to always be coupled with another, and how love can sometimes be a vessel of selfishness. It’s almost like animal behaviour and I guess we are animals, just with language and ego.”
The Sydney-based trio formed the band in 2006 and since then have released three EPs, the first EP 1 in 2007, the second Papa Vs Pretty a year later and Heavy Harm in 2010.‘Life’s Got A Hold On Me’ is a solid lead off track. The heavily laced rock and roll single is full of energy and promise.
Guitar reverb echoes across the intro of ‘One Of The Animals’. Rawle’s vocals climb over the top of the reverb with a single guitar melody following close behind. The beginning of this track suggests the band are about to deliver a softer track, yet the building of the drums soon revealing a very rock ‘hook’ chorus.‘Charity Case’ begins with an intriguing piano treatment that seems to scatter all over the place before thundering drums anchor the track. Rawle’s vocals are brilliant, showing a level of vocal maturity beyond the band’s years. His use of light and shade in his voice helps create further depth than delivering a middle of the road rock track.
Guitars are the key focus on ‘Honey’. Rawle takes a backseat on this track to allow the guitars to shine. There is such a cluster of axe sounds that at times it just sounds like a wonderful mess of chords mashed together.It’s only until hearing ‘I Felt Nothing’ that it becomes obviously how little acoustic guitars are used on this album. The addition of this track is quite a pleasant surprise and again shows Papa Vs Pretty’s musical maturity. For a band to deliver such an interesting mix of sound for their first album should be applauded.
‘United In Isolation’ is an incredibly impressive first full-length studio release. The album is not only well balanced in arrangement, the band doesn’t shy away from taking a few risks.Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi
Five years ago, American producer Danger Mouse and Italian composer Daniele Luppi hatched an idea for a new album.The idea eventually became ‘Rome’, a concept record inspired by music from spaghetti westerns.
The 15 track album was recorded in Forum Studios in Rome using vintage equipment.As well as featuring Danger Mouse aka Brian Burton and Luppi, the album also has cameos from artists such as The White Stripes former front man Jack White and American singer Nora Jones.
Burton and Luppi also tracked down Marc 4 – the backing band that worked on "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" soundtrack.The album opens with Burton and Luppi’s ‘theme’ vision. The short instrumental piece is a little dark and quite dramatic with the inclusion of ghost like vocals.
‘The Rose With The Broken Neck’ is very smooth. The initial lounge music feel immediately relaxes you with Jack White’s vocals welcome.Nora Jones vocals perfectly match the melody behind ‘Season’s Trees’. The gentle, floating feel of the string ensemble mixed with Jones’ voice makes for such a dreamlike track. It’s an early standout for me.
‘Her Hollow Ways’ is listed as an interlude track. The 57 second instrumental track is so wistful and light. The string ensemble returns with a series of keyboard notes lightly placed through out the track.It is fast becoming clear that this album is a feast for the senses. ‘Roman Blue’ is yet another instrumental piece, simple yet beautiful.
White returns on ‘Two Against One’. The singer is joined by a choir of voices. The track slightly interrupts the flow of a whimsical theme, though as a stand alone track it shines with much merit.‘The World’ is another interlude. It is even more sweet and beautiful than the last. The cinematic piece may only be 24 seconds long but it has such an impact.
‘Black’ features Jones’ vocals, though unlike her involvement on ‘Season’s Trees’, the track is a little darker and thus her vocals a bit richer and slightly harsher.It is quite the understatement to say that ‘Rome’ is a superb release. It is simply a masterpiece of sound.
The Flowerpot Sessions
During the course of seven straight dates, the album was recorded in a Kentish Town pub called ‘The Flowerpot’.The artists included Treetop Flyers, Damien Rice, James Moss, The Staves, Sarah Blasko, Pete Roe and Angus and Julia Stone.
During the day, the artists would undertake acoustic sessions and each night they would play the songs on the Flowerpot’s stage.Each live performance was recorded and thus ‘The Flowerpot Sessions’ was born.
UK producer Ian Grimble (Suouxsie & The Banshees, Everything But The Girl, Manic Street Preaches) produced the album.The album itself is a difficult one to review. The wide array of material is almost too overwhelming and turned out to be quite a personal experience.
As with attending a live gig, the experience of the listener is dependent on a number of factors – mood, sound quality and interest in the particular act.Personally, I loved this release. There is something really quite special about hearing a live recording that you’ve not attended yourself.
The fact that a week long semi-festival of sound was recorded and is available to listen to is firstly amazing, and to hear such pairings together of acts such as Australia’s own Angus and Julia Stone with Sarah Blasko as well as Damien Rice and Angus and Julia Stone, and the brilliance of Blasko singing all parts to her single ‘All I Want’ is pretty special.This album may not be for everyone, though it is one of those records that will no doubt go on record and become quite historic. A bit like ‘where were you in July 2010 when the Flowerpot Sessions were recorded?’
On that point, rather than dissect the album, I’ll say this, take the time to really listen and experience this record. It will definitely be worth it.Arctic Monkeys
Suck it and See
By all accounts, Suck it and See, offered quite a turning point for Arctic Monkeys.
While the UK band were perhaps not looking for a turning point, having already cemented themselves on British and international stages as being prolific touring and recording artists, Suck it and See, saw the band change quite a bit of their habits.
The band recorded the album at Sound City Studios in Los Angeles with producer and long-time collaborator, James Ford (Klaxons, Simian Mobile Disco).In an interview with UK music journalist, Jon Savage, the band described the album as being their most poppy to date and potentially the most fun they’ve had while recording.
“Everyone was in a really good mood when we were there [in Los Angeles],” front man Alex Turner told Savage.“So I think the fact we were having a laugh comes across. When I’ve played it to friends they’ve said “it sounds like you’re having a really good time”, I think we wanted it to sound quite fun and up, not too serious.”
Drummer Matt Helders said the recording of the album was a change for the band, with the trip to the US seen more as an adventure rather than simply a recording trip.“It were more about making it more of a trip and an experience I suppose, going somewhere to do the record,’ Helders said.
“We knew we wanted to go somewhere and do it and it were gray and horrible here’.Band front man Alex Turner said that the band changed the way they recorded on the new album.
“The plan this time was to get the songs together early on and have them be the guide. In the past perhaps it’s come from a riff or like different drum parts kicking around and then we’d piece it together,” Turner said.“This time we’ve thought a lot more about what each finished song required in terms of its musical parts and the best way to realise it. We have done a little bit of that before but perhaps not as much as on this one.” single guitar strum opens ‘She’s Thunderstorms’. It’s quite mesmerising and instantly captivates you. Drums, further guitars and Turner’s voice arrive in short succession. ‘She’s Thunderstorms’ is a super track, great melody and upbeat.
The band’s trademark use of lyrics comes into play on ‘Black Treacle’ with the line of ‘it’s getting dark and the sky looks sticky/looks like black treacle…/somebody told the stars you’re not coming out tonight/so they found a place to hide’. Again this track is solid and really enjoyable with great arrangement of guitars that balance Turner’s distinct voice.‘Brick By Brick’ moves away from the album’s first two tracks. It has a more indie rock bent with lots more attitude.
The title of this track is intriguing enough you’d think, though ‘The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala’ goes a little further. There is a completeness to this track, it’s entirely resolved in its sound. Everything about it is impressive.‘Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair’ is cheeky. Lyrically it is highly amusing and musically it is cheeky.
The rolling drums on ‘Library Pictures’ picks up the beat. Turner is in his element, his voice acts as the controller, allowing the guitars and drums to duel at a particular pace.The pace drops on ‘Reckless Serenade’, with Turner’s voice taking the lead.
‘Piledriver Waltz’ may seem a little out of step than other tracks on the album. The reason behind that is that the track was first released on Turner’s debut solo EP ‘Submarine’ – the score for the film of the same name.While the single was thought to remain only on the Submarine EP, the band decided to re-record it and include it on the album. Great decision, as the single is a definite standout.
The album’s title track ‘Suck It and See’ is the album’s standout for me. Not only does Turner’s voice sounds amazing, the lyrics ‘You’re rarer than a can of dandelion and burdock/ and those other girls are just postmix lemonade’ are just endearing.Overall, ‘Suck It and See’ is the perfect record for Arctic Monkeys.
They no longer need to prove anything, they have the sound, the style and are firm in their direction, which is everything this album is too.
Music reviews by Kate Kachor at Eleven Magazine