ALBUM REVIEW: Ghost Beach – Blonde

It’s kind of annoying being in Australia sometimes. Not for the country itself, it’s actually brilliant here. Just…you know?

Ghost Beach brought out Blonde in early March and despite being very interested to hear what they had to contribute to the music community, it wasn’t, and still isn’t available in Australia. Not on Spotify, not on iTunes, not in stores. Well I managed to track down an online stream of the album [FOUND HERE] and it’s about time we tried to peg down the band that boasts way too many made-up genres.

First of all, like many other artists, Ghost Beach’s debut LP has a few scattered oldies. From 2012, reworked versions of Miracle, Too Young and Empty Streets act as filler between some of the fresher and more polished tracks. These were all good tracks in their own right back in 2012, yet this approach tends to have a draining affect on the excitement around any new release in my eyes.

Where this album shines is the use of digital affects, used not to build the song as a whole but just enough to tweak the direction of the track and throw in some really pleasant surprises.  For example, one of my favourite spots was Without You. For the most part it’s like Gary Numan and Bob Marley are duking it out in an New-Wave VS Reggae duet until they just hi-jack everything on the word “Baby” for an epic electronic breakdown.

Other newbies like the INXS channeling, Every Time We Touch as well as Been There Before and Close Enough (feat. Noosa) tow the line between modern pop, retro-pop and every other genre. It’s electronic, it’s heavy, it’s reggae and indie; it’s all those made up genres that I’ve seen them call themselves on their Facebook page. Overall, they’ve managed to produce some interesting twists in the current catalogue that are truly golden, turning Blonde into the pop but not so pop classic that it probably should be someday.

Ghost Beach are an acquired taste, and I think up until now they have done some good things, but not great things. Blonde is a crucial step to help borderline fans refine their palate and really start to see how good these guys are.

*****

3.5/5

Nightbox – Burning & The Panic Sequence

Right before I went overseas in December last year, I wrote about Canadian band Nightbox and their amazing EP. I think it was self-titled, couldn’t be bothered to look back. Well there’s some very exciting times on the horizon for the Toronto based indie underdogs as they’re back in less than two weeks with a brand newbie, entitled The Panic Sequence EP. Leading the charge with the latest single, Burning, they’re coming out ultimate-punching with massive bass tracks and thumping choruses that genuinely deserve about fifty replays at a minimum.

Seriously though, The Panic Sequence is something to be really excited about. Last year, Nightbox released several teasers that were super unfair to fans. Thirty seconds each of pure musical bliss with no hint of a release date, if they were to be released at all. These tracks were unnamed so it’s quite possible they’re not even on the new EP. That being said, based on the track featured below, it’s safe to expect that with or without those tunes, this could very well be one of the most worthy break-through indie records this year.

You can pre-order a limited edition vinyl copy of the The Panic Sequence EP here: http://bit.ly/1oNF2Dp

Parties, Pugs & Any Given Weekend: Talking with Northeast Party House

Those of us who were in bands as teenagers know that there are only two ways to reflect back on it. The first one is utter embarrassment. The hair cuts, the immature lyrics and the in-jokes that your 16-year old self thought were funny in an album artwork or song suddenly aren’t as funny to anyone except your 16-year old self. The other is with pride. Remembering those days as among the best you’ve ever had. When you used to do nothing but party with friends, tour, drink yourself silly, sleep on couches that looked more like fallen rubble and laugh as you injured yourself constantly.

Melbournites and long-time good friends, Northeast Party House, don’t shy away from their past shenanigans as they look to drop their very first album, Any Given Weekend, in May. The lead single from the album, The Haunted slotted nicely into the Triple J rotation recently and as tour dates were announced last week, we heard from front man Zach Hamilton-Reeves who talked a little past, present, future and all things NPH (not to be confused with Neil Patrick Harris).

 

Where did the name Northeast Party House come from?

Back in 2008, our good friend Sam Northeast was left in charge of his parents house for two weeks after his Mum went on a holiday to Canada. After a big night out, Sam invited everyone back to the house and the party ended up going on for 2 weeks straight. Technically we should have been called Northeast’s Party House. The name Northeast Party House was an ode to the silliness that went on in that house.

I don’t know about you guys, but I personally have been stinging for this album to come out for a long while. What do you think you’ll do to celebrate when it’s finally out?

Hmm, well other than playing shows around the place, I think we’re going to enjoy some down time.  There was some talk of Karaoke. We’ve all got other little project interests that we’d like to check out, so we’ll see where they get to and maybe slowly get started on [album] number two.

The two singles to be released off the upcoming album, Youth Allowance and The Haunted seem to follow a party focused theme. Is this setting a trend for the rest of the album to come?

The whole album is really about our lives, our friends, loves and the experiences we’ve all had over the past few years. I think the two songs you’ve heard are a pretty solid representation of what’s to come. We’re pretty excited to show everyone what we’ve been doing!

The Haunted is an exciting peek at Any Given Weekend. Why did you choose it to be the lead single?

For the first single we felt it was really important to show everyone the diversity of the band. The Haunted was one of the songs on the album that came together in the short space of a day or two. It’s a track that we’ve all really jelled on. It’s bouncy, with some serious undertones. The track manages to remain restrained and still deliver a bit of kick to your teeth. You know? I like that stuff.

A lot of Aussie bands have shot straight overseas around the time of a release to try spruik their sound. Gold Fields, San Cisco & The Griswolds to name a few. Have you got any plans to follow suit?

There aren’t any concrete plans for overseas just yet, but we are all super keen to get there eventually. For us it’s really about where to go first. I know some of us have our eyes set on New York. We’ll just have to see where we end up, I think.

On your Facebook page, I’ve seen guys in neck braces, guys with bloody noses, people passed out and most recently, Zach sporting crutches. What is it that makes your shows so dangerous?

To be fair, the crutches had nothing to do with our show, but all of our bruzzis get pretty wild. We’ve seen our fair share of obscene behaviour whilst playing. Maybe the bouncers?

Speaking of the live shows, they seem to be getting bigger and better all the time. Is it only big time from here or do you still play the odd mates house party?

Yeah, lately they’ve been getting really full on. We still like trying to make the house parties happen but it’s getting pretty hard. There are a lot of us playing live and a lot of stuff to set up. Lately we’ve been having a lot of fun playing DJs at the small parties and clubs, lots of techno stuff. It’s pretty fun.

What’s with you guys and laser pugs/cats at the moment? (Apart from them just being epic)

Truthfully? When I was about 8 I had a little kitten called ‘Mittens’ and my older brother had a little pug-cross called ‘Dex’. They became quite close. We used to play a game called strap the laser to your pet and make them do battle. We’d put them in a box with those little lasers strapped on the head with the button pressed down, fill the box up with smoke and shake it all around. R.I.P. Mittens, I loved you. I’ll never forgive Dex.

 

Any Given Weekend is set for release on the 16th of May through StopStart Records.

Northeast Party House will be touring Australia to support it over June and July. Tickets went on sale today – you can buy them here.

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LIVE REVIEW: St. Lucia & The Griswolds @ Oxford Arts Factory

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In the week leading up to it, I had listened to countless amounts of jungle-pop and ironed my flamingo shirt ready for the celebrations. Brooklyn based St. Lucia were in town with locals The Griswolds and already you could feel the tropics taking over Sydney. Flashy-coloured Hawaiian shirts draped the crowds lining the streets outside Oxford Art Factory in Sydney’s centre. The sign above the door humbly beckoned punters inside, reading “SUN: St. Lucia + Special Guests”. However, to those who knew what was in store for them, it was the calling card of something pretty special. The mouth of the musical paradise inside.

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At 9pm, locals The Griswolds took the stage in Sydney for the first time in six months, returning from a thunderous raid of the US and SXSW festival where they played an impressive nine shows in four days. There’s something exciting about the live show of a band whose catalogue has yet to be released. It’s like bearing witness to an entire show of teasers, and teased they did. From start to finish, The Griswolds grooved and swayed to their unique brand of indie, building massive amounts of hype for the upcoming album among crowd members that hadn’t yet heard of the quintet. The highlight of the set was only described as “the single from the upcoming album”, and was filled with scuttling guitars, powerful synth and the all-purpose tribal drums you find in most popular songs these days; all the while running alongside that pop undertone that made it so enjoyable. People coming for St Lucia a little early really got their moneys worth in this support as they closed with Heart Of A Lion, bringing the house down with it.

Strangely, the first thing I noticed about St Lucia was the wind machine directed straight at the lead singer’s hair. It was like something out of an 80′s glam rock show. It made it hard to focus on the opening track, The Night Comes Again, but that was short lived by the time they made it into the early days of the set with oldies like Before The Dive, blasting to life with sharp pianos and swaying limbs.

Halfway through is where the band really hit their stride, serving up the jungle jive, Wait For Lovewhich I had previously not paid much attention to on the record. But live, oh how different the situation can be. This was one of my highlights as they brought the Caribbean straight to Sydney city with layers and layers of percussion, tropical synth and choruses filled with love and positive vibes. The crowd met them there with beaming smiles – singing, dancing and jumping about the Oxford Art Factory floor like they were around an open fire in loin cloth.

It didn’t stop there. The band made it to their hit single Elevate, asking the locals to beat their Brisbane counterparts, jumping in the bridge. The whole of the floor bounced in unison as the song concluded and morphed into a cover of Ain’t Nobody by Chaka Khan. This was, without a shadow of a doubt, the best part of the whole night. By god it was a glorious cover. I mean, honestly, I would have paid $45 to see them perform that cover.

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As they finished up it was quite clear a few songs were missing, they would be back in a few seconds. But just as everyone was ready for the members to slink back into an easier groove, they exploded on stage with the first single to effectively reach our Aussie radio stations with success, September. Suddenly, the tropical cyclone of palm-tree like tunes turned into an all out dance party and they finished the night exactly that way.

St Lucia delivered in every way possible. They were fun, musically tight, stylish and just made for a great night out, which is really the point at the end of the day. They play in Melbourne tomorrow night at the Corner Hotel and if you’re close by, I highly recommend you get into those tickets as soon as possible. I wasn’t able to take any decent video last night as usual so here’s a live acoustic version of my favourite song from the night, Wait For Love, performed on a sidewalk.

 

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RAC – Strangers

It’s not exactly news. I love RAC. Anyone who checks this blog out even once every couple of months would see a post about him. Today in Australia his debut full length album Strangers came out in the iTunes store, on Spotify and in stores around the country. It features some pretty exciting collaborations with those type of artists that are well known within certain circles and lesser known on the whole.

Featuring the likes of some of my personal favourites including Speak, Kele, Tokyo Police Club, Body Language and Alex Ebert from Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, it’s just an explosion of excellence from start to finish. RAC as always brings his own take on production that is so polished from a rock perspective, yet so edgy from an electronic perspective, that it manages to tow the line between gritty indie-electro-pop and the stuff you’d hear on repeat in the top forty. And boy do I hope he reaches that point, I’ll still love the guy.

Here are my favourites from the album not counting the songs that have been around since the Don’t Talk To EP.

 

5 Reasons Why DWNTWN Are Your New Favourite Band

This is half of Los Angeles based indie-pop band DWNTWNTheir new single Til Tomorrow came out recently and although it’s an extremely strong reason as to why these guys should be your hot topic at the moment, here are some more.

1. Their name - DWNTWN dn’t tk kndly 2 vwls

2. Their shows - They still play free shows although clearly being good enough to charge whatever the hell they like

3. Their life - Living it the way it was meant to be lived

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4. Jamie Leffler - Not in a creepy way, in a “She’s an absolute legend” way. Her voice, her style, everything else.

5. Their latest video - Til Tomorrow is a stunning wrap of what the band has termed Pindectro” (Pop-Indie-Electro). The video is cool as hell and it’s set in a bingo hall. Game. Set. And match.

 

 

The 1975 – Settle Down (EMBRZ Remix)

It’s always exciting when my favourite song on a good bands album gets a remake. They don’t always end up like I hope, but in the case of The 1975, they’ve been lucky enough to have some pretty unreal remixes to their favour. They’ve already had The Knocks step in and make their original version of the track Girls look sloppy, and now it’s time for EMBRZ to re-work the amazingly fun Settle Down.

The track is currently number two on Hype Machine, creeping up on RAC and Speak who currently hold number one with an exceptionally impressive collaboration from Strangers Pt II which comes out tomorrow. Before that, check this out, there’s a free download on Soundcloud at the moment.

Believe The Hype: Talking with Step Rockets

Minnesota natives, Step Rockets certainly gave new meaning to the phrase, “Believe the Hype” when they released the single Kisser. Almost overnight, the track blew up online thanks to that musical darling Hype Machine and the tonnes of blogs that fueled the fire with glowing reviews of the tune and the band to produce itMost of us like to wait it out before declaring a band the next big thing, and whilst I’m probably not going to use that exact phrase on account of hating it, judging on what I saw from them at Audiotrees live YouTube showcase this past week at SXSW they have plenty of fodder to continue to sky rocket (see what I did there?) into the ear-buds of tonnes more fans.

We were lucky enough to get a hold of them just before their domination of SXSW to find out about the surprise success of their trackthe latest remix from RII, a little bit of romance, and a first release story that was not unlike the novel Tomorrow When The War Began (I guess kind of similar to Red Dawn for American readers) – obviously subbing out the threatening soldiers for hordes of adoring fans of course. Bad metaphor? Don’t care, still leaving it in.

 

Your single Kisser got a big push from all the indie blogs on its release and topped the Hype Machine charts pretty much immediately. Were you surprised by this level of support in the first few weeks of release? 

Absolutely. Right after we released “Kisser” the band went camping in the B.W.C.A in the northern woods of Minnesota. When we got back to civilization, “Kisser” was climbing the hype machine chart and getting thousands of plays a day. The response has been incredible. We are so happy that our music is connecting with people and we are able to share our art with a larger audience.

 Kisser brilliantly showcases the level and style of song writing you guys are capable of and is quite impressive vocally. Do you think a similar vibe rolls into a lot of your other tracks or should we expect something completely different in upcoming releases? 

We are influenced by a wide range of styles and those influences come through in our music. We focus on strong melodies and production that let people escape to another world for a few minutes.  I guess the answer would be that we have both. We have sexy love songs as well as a little more edgy and psychedelic material.

You’ve recently outed the RII remix of Kisser. What do you like best about the rework? 

RII was the first remix we got back and they nailed it. They kept the vibe intact and did an excellent job with the change of tempo and that fat bass line.

You’ll be playing at this year’s SXSW festival for the first time with a big list of equally talented acts. What do you bring to your live show that makes Step Rockets stand out at a festival like this? 

Step Rockets has been a band for about 2 years but we’ve known each other for much longer. We have all played in different groups together and have played hundreds of shows together.  Something that is different about us is that we keep the crowd guessing where we are going to take them next while maintaining strong dance-able grooves and changing instruments and vibes. Brady and Josh also love to take guitar solos. Not many guitars solos out there in the Indie world these days.

What’s on your SXSW bucket list? 

Seeing and meeting as many talented people as possible. There will be so much talent in Austin we are just excited to be a part of the experience.  We just played with a cool band from France called La Femme, as well as the Canadian artist Lowell.  We can’t wait to see and meet more incredible bands. Washed Out and Little Dragon are a few groups at the top of our watch list.

When should we expect a debut full length from Step Rockets

We are planing on releasing a new single called “Heat Attack Again” at the end of March.  As for a full length, we haven’t set the date quite yet.

Kisser seems like a bit of a tragic love song. On the topic of love, what does date night with Step Rockets look like? 

There is a gorgeous spot in Minneapolis called Saint Anthony Main.  You can walk across the Mississippi River on the Stone Arch Bridge and arrive at this little place called the Aster Cafe.  They have a tiny stage for jazz groups with excellent wine and craft beer with a movie theatre next door. A ton of local inspirations play there on a regular basis as well.

Aside from the obvious money, tour organising issues and actual logistics. What would it take from Australian fans to convince Step Rockets to come to Australia? 

We would love to play Australia as soon as we can! The best thing for Australian fans to do right now is just spread the word.  If you are digging the jams then let your friends know about it; call in to your favorite local radio station to let them know about us.  As soon as we have enough people that want us there we’ll be there.

****

Fans lucky enough to be in the US can catch them live in Madison, Wisconsin during March and alongside Foo Fighters, Arctic Monkeys, Wild Cub, Little Comets and Aussies The Griswolds at Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Delaware on June 19th. Advance tickets are currently still on sale.

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Bombay Bicycle Club – Luna

Bombay Bicycle Club need no introduction. They’re verified on facebook AND twitter, so…yeah, big time. Their latest album So Long, See You Tomorrow was released officially in January of this year and is one of the better albums to drop all year. It’s casual at heart whilst remaining an honestly dramatic album. Tracks like the single Luna are infused with powerful tribal percussion whilst others like Whenever, Wherever jump between ballad and rock opera never really sure of where to stand. Then there’s others like Feel that starts off like a cheesy midi file that could very well have been named “Arabian Nights” or something like that, but cuts properly awesome towards the chorus.

Now, in complete contrast to the above paragraph. This is one album that made me second guess my taste in music for a second. I liked it almost all the way through, but couldn’t understand why. It’s refreshing and melodically seductive, yet absolutely shit at the same time; definitely one of those “listen to it a few times before making judgement” pieces of work. The tracks are so consistently interchanging, some parts I’m really digging and some I’m thinking what the absolute fuck is this garbage. For the most part, it’s impressive and likeable. Wait, so did I like it or not?

I’ll just finish by saying So Long, See You Tomorrow is a complex and layered album and it’s best to let it be, don’t try to understand it, just enjoy it…because you will. That’s a yes, I did like it, by the way.

Northeast Party House – The Haunted

NORTHEAST PARTY HOUSE - The Haunted

Lately I’ve had the pleasure of being able to write about so many great Australian bands. Not simply because I’m pro-Australian. I’ve never written about Aussie bands to stay patriotic or to support a local scene (although it’s a nice added bonus when I can write about it). It’s basically because after years and years of it being what I considered sub-par, over the past few years and a lot of soul searching, bands down under have gotten so consistently impressive. The current musical landscape over here is intense. There is so much impeccable song writing, flawless live performances, well-deserved overseas recognition and most importantly, a hell of a lot of fun. I’m proud to say that, to me, fun seems to be the key ingredient at the heart of every great act that make up Australia’s current musical identity.

Although they are definitely just at the starting point of what I hope is a long and successful career, I reckon Northeast Party House is exactly the kind of act at the forefront of this genius bust-out of talent. I saw them play to about ten people back in 2012 in a dingy pub in Newcastle (I actually think my friend and I were the only paying punters there on the night) and I was livid at why more people weren’t there to catch it. After the premier of their new single The Haunted last night on Triple J’s Home & Hosed, I feel like next time I’ll be livid that I can’t get a god damn ticket to their sold out gigs. These guys are the embodiment of fucking fun. They were musically as tight as anything I’ve ever seen while their stage performance makes you want to sink about seven jagerbombs, get loose and cut mad shapes like an idiot on the dance floor, maybe quit your job, go travelling…you know, actually live life. It’s unreal.

The new track that appeared on Soundcloud about an hour ago, the aforementioned The Haunted, is just another notch on the bedpost for the band gearing up to release the all important debut album this year. The first single Youth Allowance was a rebellious party track, while this newbie reeks of something repentant in it’s melody whilst flowing like a track that has all the tell tale signs of…you guessed it…a party track. All I want to know is, where is the Northeast Party House and how do I get an invite?

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