Monthly Archives: April 2014

Twin Shadow – To The Top

A little while ago, that 80’s sound-monger Twin Shadow  (a.k.a George Lewis Jr.) had his doozy of a hit Old Love/New Love featured on the soundtrack to GTA V. It was a brilliant dig at the retro genre, mixing uplifting vocal melodies with what seemed like quite a bleak sentiment. In his latest track, To The Top, we see him heading on the up and up in comfort, wrapped in exactly the type of style he knows how to nail best. The anthem.

To The Top takes its strokes from the kind of songs you used to hear at the end of college movies in the 80’s and early 90’s when they were all coming out after final exams fist pumping and high-fiving each other. Perhaps the most exciting part of Twin Shadows new efforts is in the consistency. He seems to have found that sweet spot in a genre that is purely and genuinely his to dominate, whilst coming out swinging in a way that avoids the “hit and miss” effect he had on the last album.

The only off-putting part about this track (there HAD to be one, it’s Twin Shadow) is the weird placed timing in one of the final choruses. He attempts to disjoint it a little by letting his vocals trail the beat we’ve become accustomed to the entire song – and I get that it might be cool from a musicians perspective, you know, breaking outside the aesthetics of our traditional beliefs of what a song should be – but it doesn’t do anything except bug me a little, sounding distracting and off.

That, however, is a very minute vice in what is largely a crazy good anthem packed full of virtue. Currently sitting at #2 on Spotify’s “Viral 50”, check out To The Top below. Do you think his next album will be able to top the last?

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Staying Golden: Talking With DWNTWN

A few years ago, if I were to ask the question, “What do you think DWNTWN sounds like?”, most Australians would have answered, “Who is DWNTWN?” and potentially, “Why are you in my house?”. But after a significant amount of explaining and listening to their music, I’m almost 100% sure it wouldn’t be the same answer as it would be today. As cliche as it might sound, in the years since that confusing time the Los Angeles based outfit have done a lot of growing up, musically speaking. For starters, their latest releases Til Tomorrow and the more recent Missing You, were both certainly an impressive shock, fruitful with folk undertones and affirming lyrics, stifling their electronica upbringings in place of something more tangible to them, both metaphorically and in their live shows.

On the other side of the fence (AKA the hardships of being cool, popular people in bands), it turns out vowels aren’t the only thing DWNTWN don’t subscribe to. With their latest self titled EP due to grace our ears in just two days time we’re certain they’re on the cusp of something pretty special. Whether it’s critical acclaim, fame and fortune or just that foot in the proverbial door, DWNTWN are doing a phenomenal job of staying their good old golden selves in the process. Before they almost certainly hit it big, we were lucky enough to hear from front-woman and straight up legend, Jamie Leffler about the new tracks, the old hats and most importantly, being weird in a cool, cool world.

 

Did you choose the name DWNTWN because PTWN just didn’t have the same ring to it?

Yeah, not quite the same is it? “Uptown” sounds like too nice a place, like Beverly Hills or The Hamptons and those places scare us. But really Robert came up with the name because our group of friends is called the “Dream Team” and he wanted to use the DT initials in our name. DWNTWN just seemed to fit us.

For some reason, from the first time I heard you guys it’s always been super clear that you’re based in LA. What do you think it could be about DWNTWN that screams Los Angeles?

That’s funny, because honestly I don’t feel any real connection between our music and LA. I think because we have lived here our whole lives we don’t really realize how much this city influences us. If we moved away for a while it would probably become clearer.

There are some obvious differences musically between Til Tomorrow and your previous work. What do you think changed in the song writing process when you were writing the new EP?

We thought a lot more about how we could play the songs live for this EP. Robert only feels comfortable playing guitar on stage and our earlier music had hardly any guitars in it, so when we started working on new music he made it a point to write in a lot more for him to play live. Incorporating more guitars also led to us to show more of our folk influence by using banjo and slide guitar on a couple songs.

It’s been two years since your last release. Aside from the songs, what’s new about the upcoming EP?

It’s definitely a step away from what we have done before. We are still making everything in our bedroom, but I definitely feel like we are growing. I wanted to avoid writing so much about relationships for this EP, so there are a couple of songs on subjects I have never approached before. One is for my grandpa who passed away, and the other about my dad, who died of a heroine overdose. We also got inspired by our friend Nick Egan to make our own album art for this EP.

 I hear you’ve also got some cool collaborations coming up? Can you tell us more about those?

Ya! One just came out with Futurecop! (the exclamation mark is part of their name, don’t think I’m crazy), it’s called “Lost Love”. We had been fans of Futurecop! for a long time and we were stoked when they asked us to work on this song. Another one is with Something A la Mode, called “On My Mind”. We wrote the song about a year ago, and when we visited Paris last year we got to meet them. They are the NICEST guys ever. We drank wine and learned how to curse in French.

Robert always seems to be wearing that killer wide brimmed hat. Is it the same one or does he have a collection of identical hats?

He’s gotta build a collection! So far it’s just the one trusty hat. I think it might actually be an Australian cowboy hat, we got it at this weird cowboy store outside of LA. Everything was embroidered and sequined, I low key wanted to buy everything there and start dressing like Patsy Cline or something.

You’ve been snapped in bingo halls, car parks and everywhere in between having a cheeky beverage or two. Where is your favourite place to sink a few cold ones?

Anywhere outside, preferably a parking lot or somewhere with a nice view of the city. It’s tough finding bars we like in LA because (a) they are too expensive and (b) everyone is so cool… like too cool. Our keyboardist Chris recently started working at a trendy spot, and it’s actually been fun going there and getting handed free beers and getting to just stand in the back and watch everyone. We love watching people be weird… although maybe we’re the ones being weird, Haha. The last time we were there, this awkward dude was there all alone trying to dance with girls, and we had the greatest time just watching him go for it. Robert should have danced with him, he seemed like a nice guy.

If you could pick any venue in any city in the world, where would you most like to play and why?

The Gorge at Sasquatch. It’s got to be one of the most beautiful places in America.

Perhaps the most important question of all. What would it take to get DWNTWN to Australia?

An airplane.

 

…of course.

The single Til Tomorrow is available on iTunes here: http://bit.ly/TilTomorrowiTunes

If you’re lucky enough to be in California or New York right now, check them out live at any of the following venues: http://www.songkick.com/artists/4752693-dwntwn

 

Bad Suns – Salt & Cardiac Arrest

My favourite thing in the world is ‘properly’ stumbling upon new music. I’m talking like, going into a fabric store with your Mum because you said you’d spend some time with her, and they start playing the best song you’ve ever heard. Shazam that shit, day is made. Today, DWNTWN mentioned they’d be going live on KX 93.5 in LA so I went to stream it. I didn’t find DWNTWN, but I did hear the coolest track of the week.

The tune in question was Salt by California kids Bad Suns and it’s an excitable mix of indie-funk bass drives and clopping percussion, topped with deep-infiltrating falsetto vocal melodies. All that wankery aside, it’s a fucking fun track. The kind of song that seems to degrade my credit among work colleagues when I start air drumming and tilting my head with the beat. Seriously, Bad Sunsyou’re going to kill me come promotion time.

After listening to Salt, I noticed another slightly more rocky number in their single Cardiac Arrest. It’s another brilliant track that goes in a completely different direction. Lyrics reminiscent of the bands of my teenage days speak a confused cautionary love story about being careful while giving it your all at the same time. I usually wouldn’t call out lyrics in this blog, but I feel they’re hard to avoid in this song. The guy sings it with such passion in lines as simple as “How much do I invest?” it’s clear to see that they add a lot of emotion and power.

Their EP Transpose was released on January 21st this year and you can download it on iTunes here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/transpose-ep/id773276443

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Nightbox – The Panic Sequence

Nightbox have sparked a lot of interest for us lately in the lead up for the brand new release that is The Panic Sequence EP, striking hard and fast with new tracks, some hits, some misses. Given that two posts ago I told everyone to watch out for this guaranteed-to-be-amazing record, I thought it necessary that I follow it with an assessment of whether or not I jumped the gun on this one.

Granted, I do get a little excited about music sometimes, but with sweeping statements like the one I made for The Panic Sequence, it’s hard to justify anything living up to it really. Starting on that solemn note, Nightbox have put together an incredibly fair effort and one that is still a big upgrade from where they were when they released the self-titled EP just three years ago. Back then their songs, although clearly being the sign of something great to come, seemed hollow – like they were missing one element that they were hoping to catch in the new release.

Casual verses juxtaposed against frenzied choruses seem to be the formula they’ve gone with for most of this one. Not that it’s a bad thing. In tracks like Wonderworlds, it’s a beautiful transition between verse and chorus, annexing the song from soft indie into the realm of meaningful beats and melodies that could make the most stubborn of foots start tapping. The title track, The Panic Sequence is another one to note, snaking through tinges of funk and noticeable traces of all the elements that make up a lot of the Australian indie scene at the moment, evident in bands like Olympic Ayres, The Griswolds and YesYou. It’s a shame about that chorus though, the verses are so promising.

The sad part really is that the EP really takes off from the start and the first single, Burning, which I wrote about only two posts ago. After that, it kind of fizzles out apart from a few flickers of hope here and there in the aforementioned songs. I was really excited about this EP and after listening to The Panic Sequence EP a few times it pains me to say that despite being a really solid short collection, Nightbox seem to be at a similar place to where they were three years ago. The never-ending efforts of a band that always has something better on the horizon. They’re just yet to come out swinging.

*****

3/5

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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.