Thursday, 31 January 2013

Weezer - 17 January 2013, The Palais

Night two of Weezer’s Melbourne stay aka the night the Palais bitch slapped Sidney Myer Music Bowl by showing it what a real venue sounds like. Pretty much everything about this night was better than the first. Obviously the sound was better, but the crowd were enthusiastic but not obnoxious and the band seemed to be enjoying themselves a lot more. The greatest hits set gets turned into a hits and rarities set, but even as someone who isn’t a big fan the first part of the show was really enjoyable (and throwing in a few rarities meant that this part of the show wasn’t too predictable). The Pinkerton portion of the show is what it is, fans of the album will love it but those that don’t won’t. Finally, the show was topped off with an unexpected, and unplanned, encore of Island in the Sun.

The sound quality of this recording is really good. A super fan a few rows back can be heard singing along and yelling out, but I think this captures the excitement of the crowd (which seemed to have more than the expected number of hardcore fans), rather than being annoying. If I was being critical I’d say that the sound isn’t as full as I’d like, but that’s hard to achieve with an audience recording.

Put Me Back Together
The Angel and the One
The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn)
We Are All on Drugs
Keep Fishin’
Don’t Let Go
You Gave Your Love to Me Softly
Buddy Holly

Tired of Sex
No Other One
Why Bother?
Across the Sea
The Good Life
El Scorcho
Pink Triangle
Falling for You

Island in the Sun

Update: According to an email I just got the track Tired of Sex violates Mediafires terms and conditions and has been removed and I've got a 'strike'. I suspect that in fact Mediafire is a complete ass and is simply getting upset because of the word sex. I know some nine year olds who'd think thats a bit childish. Anyway, I could simply put it up again but I suspect the same thing would happen. Instead, I'm going to see if there is some way of challenging the strike and removal of the track. If they continue to act like idiots I'll use it as an opportunity to find someone else to host this show and perhaps others in future.

Update 2: I've reuploaded the track with a different title. Hopefully that'll solve the problem.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Weezer - 16 January 2013, Sidney Myer Music Bowl

I've already mentioned that this show was pretty bad. In essence, if one of the labels is Sidney Myer Music Bowl the sound quality is probably awful. Maybe things aren't so bad on the lawn (I'll try that once and if its still awful I'll only go to the Bowl for a must see concert). I guess there may be lots of people out there who want this, so I'll put it out there. I haven't listened to the whole thing because I find listening to something of this quality painful. If you want it here it is, but you've been warned that it sounds like crap.

(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To
Pork and Beans
Burndt Jamb
Perfect Situation
Beverly Hills
Dope Nose
Island in the Sun
Hash Pipe
El Scorcho

My Name is Jonas
No One Else
The World Has Turned and Left Me Here
Buddy Holly
Undone – The Sweater Song
Surf Wax America
Say It Ain’t So
In the Garage
Only in Dreams

David Byrne & St Vincent - 14 January 2013, Hamer Hall

I’ll be putting up a pair of two-night shows over the next week or so, and in both cases the second night is substantially better than the first. In the case of this show the reason is a bit hard to pin down. In part it’s because the first night was the first show they’d done in around three months. That’s hard enough for most bands, but particularly where your show features extensive (albeit simple) choreography. The other factor is that there was a better relationship with the crowd on the second night. Not that they were any more engaged, but simply that the band played better and the crowd became more enthusiastic which made the band play better and so on. Having said all that, I should also say that (unlike the Weezer show to come) the first night wasn’t actually bad, just not as good as the second.

Setlist wise these shows haven’t varied, but that’s a bit more understandable when you realise there’s a choreographed routine for every song that the band has to perform while playing. Mixing in one or two different songs across the two nights would have been nice, but I can understand why they didn’t. Going into this show I hadn’t actually heard Love this Giant and, while they mix in a few of their own songs, the bulk of the material is from that album. So ultimately the success of the show rests on the quality of that album and their performance of it. Fortunately, both are really really good. Particular highlights for me were Lightning, I Should Watch TV, and Outside of Space and Time. On the other hand, there weren’t any duds amongst the songs they played.

Finally, I was in the front few rows for this one, while it was kinda cool to see what way David Byrne dresses (right) the sound didn’t seem quite as good. In particular, the vocals aren’t as far up as I’d like. My suspicion is that this would have been better further back, where the unamplified sound of the horns would have had less of an effect. Ultimately, this is a pretty minor quibble, and lots of people might not even notice it.

Weekend in the Dust
Save Me From What I Want
Strange Overtones
I Am an Ape
This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody)
This Forest Awakes
Like Humans Do
I Should Watch TV
Northern Lights
The One Who Broke Your Heart
Outside Space and Time

Burning Down the House

The Party
Road to Nowhere

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Best Coast - 2 January 2013, The HiFi

…and on to main act – Best Coast. Officially the band are touring their new album ‘The Only Place, but it hasn’t received great reviews (even though the songs they played weren’t bad) and the band almost seemed apologetic about playing songs from it, instead focussing on material from their debut. Like Bleeding Knees Club, Best Coast’s music has a tendency to sound a bit samey, but they offset this with some incredibly catchy songs that, even if they’re still part of the same formula, are good enough that it doesn’t really matter.

The sound for this is really really good, but the performance itself is basically a standard run through. Nothing wrong with it, but it won’t be a show that sticks in the mind.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Divine Fits - Live at KEXP

Starting to get more and more excited about Laneways as I listen to some of the bands that will be there (starting to get worried about clashes though). In particular, I've been spending a lot of time listening to Divine Fits' A Thing Called Divine Fits. Being a Spoon fan I wasn't impressed on first listen because it doesn't sound a lot like them. But listening again (and again and again) and judging it on its merits, this is a really really great album. If you want to check out a handful of tracks the good folks at The Steam Engine have a four song session the band did for radio station KEXP. Obviously the quality is excellent as is the performance - Divine Fits at KEXP (via The Steam Engine).

Friday, 18 January 2013

Bleeding Knees Club - 2 January 2012, The HiFi

It annoys me that the HiFi is about the only venue in Melbourne that doesn’t put up set times for their shows (they did briefly, but don’t seem to do it anymore, and when they did the times were inevitably wrong). The only upside is that I usually turn up incredibly early out of fear of missing the main act and end up catching the opening band. In this case it was Bleeding Knees Club, who, if I’d known they were opening, would have turned up for anyway.

The band do the ‘obnoxious surf punk’ think pretty well (although its pretty stupid to get annoyed that the crowd isn’t excited for you – you’re the opening band, no one is there to see you, you have to win the crowd over). Their set was pretty enjoyable, and they have a few good songs. The main problem with them is that after a while their songs all start to sound the same. It wouldn’t take much to add a couple of slightly slower songs or that have a different beat, but it’d make them a much more interesting band.

The quality of this recording is really good, no obtrusive talking and the band sounds pretty good, particularly considering the small and only moderately interested crowd.

Who Are You
Nothing to Do
Camp Out
‘Song 5’ [I don’t know what this song is called, when I tracked this I just listed the songs and figured out titles later, this was the only one I couldn’t find. If anyone knows can you leave a comment]
Problem Child
Have Fun
Beach Slut
Parent Trap
Can You Remember
Teenage Girls
Bad Guys

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Sharon Van Etten - 30 December 2012, Corner Hotel

As promised, this should be the start of things picking up after a post-Xmas pause. This show was from what seems like a long time ago, but was only a couple of weeks. Sharon Van Etten seems to be on the up and up and this show was a display of talent from someone who will hopefully be a regular visitor here. Unlike Laura Marling, who she is often compared to, the focus here isn’t simply the voice, instead she has a bunch of powerfully melodic songs, which the voice is just one component of.

Like Laura Marling, she seemed to have an annoying faux-naïf thing going on. But as the show progressed it became clear that actually, she was just genuinely nervous; becoming more confident as it became clear that (to her apparent surprise) she has a bit of a fanbase here.

Unsurprisingly, the set focussed on her most recent effort – Tramp, which has been featuring on many best-of year lists, with a few older songs and one new song (listed on the setlist as ‘Solo’, although that may simply be a description or a working title) added in.

The sound quality for this is very good. I’ve had to push the volume up a lot at times because she is pretty softly spoken; while this is occasionally noticeable, it shouldn’t be too annoying.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Best Recordings of 2012

I thought I’d finish up my best of 2012 lists with the best recordings I’ve put up here. These are the shows that are of sufficient quality (in terms of performance and audio) to make them worth listening to regardless of whether you attended.

Noel Gallagher – the guy knows what the fans want and delivers in spades. It doesn’t hurt that his album (and the new material he played) can hold their own with any of the Oasis material he played.

My Morning Jacket – not much talking and some things that didn’t make a lot of sense, but the music was stellar.

Simone Felice/Josh Ritter – what an amazing double-header! I love Josh Ritter and he certainly lived up to expectations, but Simone Felice proved that his post-Felice Brothers work deserves to put him on a par with his former band.

War on Drugs – maybe my favourite show of the year, and the only time I’ve left a show desperate to hear more. These guys are my discovery of the year. Hopefully they’ll be back soon.

Radiohead – biggest tour of the year? The most anticipated? Regardless, it managed to live up to the hype with an amazing show mixing new and old with a light show that has set a new benchmark for arena shows.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Best Albums I Got in 2012

A quick note: having quietened down for a while things should pick up around here next week. I’ve got three sets ready to put up right now, have another one that might be ready by the weekend, plus an exciting run of shows coming up. Keep an eye out.

Belle & Sebastian – Dear Catastrophe Waitress (2003)

Belle & Sebastian featured in last years list, this year I added the last few ‘must haves’ from their catalogue, this being the best of them. I’d avoided the band for quite a while because people tended to use terms like ‘fey’ and ‘twee’ to describe them. While there are slight elements of that in their music, they are usually incredibly hooky and don’t take themselves entirely seriously, which are the two failings that I usually associated with twee music. Particular highlights include Step Into My Office, Baby (the break in this song gives you an idea of what I was worried their entire catalogue might sound like); Piazza, New York Catcher; I’m a Cuckoo; and the title track.

Childish Gambino – I Am Just a Rapper 1 & 2 (2010)

These two EPs (free from and are my joint favourites from the five or so Childish Gambino records I’ve listened to this year (all also freely distributed). I Am Just a Rapper 1 is the weaker of the two, but features the strongest track ‘Bitch Look at Me Now’. That title should make it clear to those looking for more comedic gold from Donald Glover (writer for 30 Rock and star of Community) that this isn’t comedy-rap; he takes this seriously. Having said that he raps about the issues he faces, which aren’t struggling to make ends meet or dealing drugs. That honesty is pretty refreshing and coupled with his obvious talents make him worth checking out.

Drive-By Truckers – Decoration Day (2003)

I usually manage to discover one or two bands via tours. This year I found Jason Isbell from the Ryan Adams tour, and War on Drugs from Harvest. I’d actually already heard DBT’s supposed masterpiece ‘Southern Rock Opera’, and not enjoyed it. So my expectations of this were fairly low, but I bought it in part because of the Jason Isbell tracks I’d heard live. But the rest of the material here is great too, similar to Southern Rock Opera, but with more of a focus on the music, rather than the overhanging theme. Particular highlights include Outfit, Decoration Day and Sink Hole.

Japandroids – Celebration Rock (2012)

My great discovery of last year was Japandroids, so my expectations for this album were pretty high, although tempered by the fact I hadn’t enjoyed Post-Nothing as much as some. This album is a mixed bag (at least by Japandroids’ standards). The House That Heaven Built is as good as anything they’ve done, and Younger Us makes an expected album appearance. But that standard isn’t maintained over the albums relatively short length. I’m still waiting for Japandroids to create their masterpiece, but this is better than most bands ever achieve.

Josh Ritter – Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter (2007)

One of my favourite gigs of the year was the Simone Felice/Josh Ritter double header at the Corner. I’d borrowed both this album and Animal Years in the leadup to this show and loved both. In fact, when I eventually buy Animal Years (I’ve been trying to track down the 10th anniversary version if anyone has any suggestions) it’ll end up on a best of year list. The particular standout on Historical Conquests is The Temptation of Adam. Part of the reason I love it is that it does a wonderful job of telling a story, without (like most attempts by musicians) being too blunt or too bland. It’s no surprise that Ritter has also written a well received novel. I’m now slowly working my way through the rest of his catalogue, but so far this is the standout.

Various Artists – Beginner’s Guide to Africa

I’ve got a theory that any reasonably large genre, timeframe or geographic region will have some good music. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to start finding out about African music. One of the things that this compilation establishes pretty quickly is that the concept of ‘African music’ as some kind of traditional music makes as much sense as saying American music is just folk songs like the Cuckoo is a Pretty Bird. This is a very cheap three cd compilation, with each disc focussing on a different facet of African music. Highlights for me include Vieux Farka Toure (recently announced for Womad, so hopefully about to undertake a full Australian tour), Sir Victor Uwaifo, Juldeh Camara, Lobi Traore, and Yousseu N’Dour. Particularly given the price, this is a great introduction for those who know virtually nothing about the music of this enormous continent.

War on Drugs – Slave Ambient (2011)

Not only is this my favourite album of the year, their show at the Northcote Social Club was one of my favourite shows of the year. This is amazingly catchy, managing to at times to have hints of Bob Dylan, at others Fleetwood Mac, but constantly being unique. I’ve listened to, but not bought, their first album Wagonwheel Blues, which isn’t quite as immediately catchy, but is still extraordinary good. If there’s any justice in the world (and there seldom is) this band will have a lot of success in the future.

Jason Isbell – Here We Rest (2011)

I’ve already mentioned Drive-By Truckers, but this album is at least as good as what I’ve heard from them. The album is more laid back than most of the DBT material I’ve heard, and perhaps more folky than country. Having said that, it should appeal to DBT fans (particularly if they like Jason Isbell’s contributions). Virtually everything on this album is great, but particular highlights are Alabama Pines, Codeine and Daisy Mae.

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – S/T (2011)

This album and Noel Gallagher’s Big Day Out sideshow were unexpected highlights of the year. I’ve appreciated bits and pieces of the Oasis catalogue, but have never been a big fan. This album (and the shows) manage to emphasise the Noel Gallagher aspect of Oasis without either being simply an attempt to clone their sound or to diverge greatly simply to demonstrate his independence (for those who think that balance is easy to achieve, try listening to Beady Eye). Although there hasn’t been any news of a follow up, the Melbourne sideshow included a couple of songs that weren’t on the album, so hopefully the sophomore effort (and another Australian tour) aren’t far away.

Sigur Rós – Með Suð Í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust (2008)

Among the great things about Vietnam are the cheap albums. I bought a bunch of genuine albums for $2.50 each. At that price its reasonable to get albums I might not normally have been so interested in. That was the case with this Sigur Rós’ album; while I’d enjoyed Takk, none of the other albums had particularly grabbed me. I think the difference is that the other albums are extremely delicate, slowly unfolding to reveal themselves. There isn’t anything wrong with that (in fact lots of people love it), but I find it means they’re only suited to a very particular mood, and if I’m not in that mood they are frustrating listens. This album is much more upbeat and accessible, without sacrificing the essential albums that make this a Sigur Rós album, rather than simply an indie album that happens to be (mainly) in Icelandic).

The Eastern – Hope & Wire (2012)

This double album was written in the wake of, and at least partially in response to, the Christchurch earthquakes (the band are based in Lyttelton, which is about 20 minutes from Christchurch, and was also badly affected). That produces a slightly melancholy tinge to the songs, but never descends into moroseness or despair (and as usual there are a few raucous, uplifting songs). The band has started to make excursions into Australia, and look set to continue that with an April show already booked for a Victorian festival. For those who enjoy Jason Isbell or Gillian Welch, this is a band to check out.

Cave Singers – Invitation Songs (2007)

This is the Cave Singers’ debut, and probably got attention because of the presence of a former Pretty Girls Make Graves and Murder City Devils member. Those folks might have been disappointed to find that this is a much more subdued effort than the work of those bands (or at least so I’m told, I don’t really know their work much). This is often described as indie folk, but unlike Fleet Foxes for instance, the emphasis is more on the indie than the folk. I can’t say this is a genre I listen to a lot so I can’t think of any bands to compare them to. The best I can do is say that for those who normally find indie folk too slow and melody focussed at the expense of energy and movement, this might be a good entry point. As a side note I just saw that they’re releasing their fourth album this year, so hopefully an Australian tour might happen (they seem like a good fit for Harvest).

There were a bunch of other albums that could have made this list, but I couldn’t be bothered writing something for all of them: Gary Clark Jr – The Bright Lights (Aust Edition), Radiohead – The King of Limbs, The Rolling Stones – Singles Collection: The London Years, Vieux Farka Toure – Live, Neil Young – Americana, The Fourmyula – Very Best of the Fourmyula, Wavves – Life Sux, Manchester Orchestra – Mean Everything to Nothing