Monthly Archives: December 2014

The Very Best Of 2014

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It’s almost the last day of the working year at my day to day; and as you can imagine, as things wind down, cranking out some decent tunes in the office becomes a big part of the vibe leading up to Christmas. Looking through the 2014 playlists, it’s very clear that this year has been one of the best years in a long while for music, in particular Australian music. We’ve had some sure-to-be historic debuts, some impressive first time interstate players, and the expectations put on many emerging artists for their scheduled releases this year shattered with an unprecedented amount of consistently high quality records.

Now, this is down to pure personal taste, and if you would also like to input, you can either email suggestions next year or start up your own blog. But I’d like to take a silent minute to just respect the year that’s been, and deliberate on the very best of the year that was 2014.

Acoustic Cover of the Year: Bad Suns (Calif.) – Cardiac Arrest

Among the slew of emerging artists this year, Bad Suns stood out for their unreal ability to craft a pure pop song with all that raw rock vibe imbued inside of it. Cardiac Arrest was perhaps the best example of this, the single off their debut Language & Perspective, because of the sinister lead guitar hooks and impressively spot-on vocals. That was made entirely clear when they played it acoustic, knocking it out of the park vocally, while the band plays nice and tight.

Live Show of the Year: The Griswolds @ The Metro, October

Sydney was treated to some sweet as live acts passing through this year. Among the slew was St. Lucia, CHVRCHES, Kishi Bashi, Circa Waves, Bombay Bicycle Club and a huge amount of increasingly noteworthy locals. But by far the most incredibly performance was when Sydney natives The Griswolds returned home from their huge touring schedule in the US in October for one of the best live performances I’ve seen yet. Their latest single If You Wanna Stay absolutely brought the house down.

Emerging Artist of the Year: Coach Bombay (Melb.)

When I say “emerging” artist, you might not think Melbourne’s Coach Bombay fits the profile. They’ve been around for quite a while. But it’s surprising to note that this year in September was the first time they ever played live outside of the state of Victoria. We interviewed the man and reviewed his Sydney performance at the time and you wouldn’t believe they only started touring as a live act in the last year or so. They were so tight, so huge, dancey but humble. His unique brand of happy times electro-pop deserves a tip of the cap and we hope to see them doing big things in 2015.

Australian Artists of the Year: Northeast Party House (Melb.)

2014 was a really awesome year for a lot of Australian bands. I’ve followed Northeast Party House closely for over two years now and anticipated their debut Any Given Weekend for a long time. Well this year it was released in line with a stretch of hectic tours up the east coast of Australia. The album and their shows were true to the consistently and beautifully shambolic nature of the boys themselves, solidifying their spot in my party playlists for years to come.

International Artist of the Year: Ghost Beach (New York)

Ghost Beach have been busy little Brooklynites this year, with the launch of their record label “Crazy Heart Records” and the debut release from their signing PROM. Alongside this, they used billboard space in Times Square to open a discussion on music privacy. In between all this, they released in Australia their kick ass album BLONDE complete with some of the most original songwriting I’ve heard in a long time together with killer iconic vocals. Ghost Beach were easily the band that made the most profound impact of 2014 to anyone that was into them.

EP of the Year: Great Good Fine OK (New York) – Body Diamond

Great Good Fine OK got their break through the blog-o-sphere with one of our favourites, “The Wild Honey Pie”, who further pushed them in 2014. The release of further singles after last years You’re The One For Me, got me ridiculously excited for the EP, and they delivered with epics like By My Side and Not Coming Home. In an EP there is little room for mistakes, and this one was as flawless as they come.

Single of the Year: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. (Detroit) – Run

I’ll be honest, I didn’t take quite as much notice of this song when I first heard it, and although I deeply regret it at least I came around and that’s the main thing. Joke was on me, because Run is a stellar single, released in January of this year from the 2013 album The Speed Of Things, it involves a very unique style of songwriting and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. in the best form they can be. When their mellow, wacky lyrics join hands with their strangely elusive yet fun electro-pop style, amazing things happen.

Album of the Year: RAC (Portland) – Strangers

Anyone who reads this blog knows I froth over RAC. So it’s no surprise that his debut full length of originals brought me to my knees this year. Strangers was a collaboration with many of my favourite vocalists, Speak, Tokyo Police Club, Kele, St Lucia and Alex Ebert to name a few. But it was those I had never heard of that really broke the roof of this album. Tracks like Ello Ello (Ft. Body Language) and Cheap Sunglasses (Feat. Matthew Koma) made this an album that I will never forget, and will most likely still be pumping on some futuristic sound device 40 years from now.

Merry Christmas and look forward for more tunes in 2015!

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Sans Parents – Coming Back To You

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Following the disbandment of the epic Australian indie pop outfit Hungry Kids of Hungry, ex-members Kane Mazlin and Ryan Strathie have formed new project Sans Parents with Sydney-based session player/Andy Bull collaborator Alex Bennison. The new three piece have just delivered their debut single ‘Coming Back To You’ which is a crunchy and aggressive number, reminiscing on the days of garage rock.

Originally setting out to assist each other on new post-band solo projects, they discovered that the chemistry displayed through their collaborative efforts sparked a song-writing synergy that has already eventuated in a near-completed album recorded by Brisbane’s Matt Redlich (Ball Park Music, Emma Louise).

Sans Parents will also be announcing shows for 2015 in the coming weeks.

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ALBUM REVIEW: Pepa Knight – Hypnotized Vol. 1

Hypnotized Vol. 1

This article first appeared on The AU Review.

Side-tracking from the successful ethnic-pop collaboration that is Jinja Safari, Central Coast native Pepa Knight released his debut EP Hypnotized Vol. 1 last Friday and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Alongside an exciting start to his solo act, just over a month ago the man welcomed a baby boy into the world, which would be sure to inspire any regular man let alone a musical maestro. Perhaps a lot of that life affirming, dawn-of-a-new-day type of thinking shines through in the new work. Perhaps it’s just a really great listen. The way this EP reaches out and grabs at your heart and mind, I think you’d be a fool to listen to it and believe it’s anything but the first option.

The record introduces itself with the opening track “Hypnotized”, beginning the journey that is getting to know Pepa Knight, because that’s what a lot of this collection actually feels like. A journey and an experience. Sounds wanky, I know. But seriously, listen to it and tell me I’m wrong. It’s probably why his live performances are well complimented by 3D glasses and are commonly held in teepees. It’s something you need to actually feel to believe. The title track is littered with world music inspired strings and percussion, brought together in a likeable collaboration in large part thanks to Pepa’s pop infused vocals, which add that much needed element of familiarity. Near the end we hear the words, “Do you feel alive?”, offering an eager clue at the tangibility of what’s to come.

The most obvious choice for highlight of Hypnotized Vol. 1 would be the debut single “Rahh!”. Feeling like an incoherent and passionate scream at the world, there’s something very Gotye-esque about it, with much catchier undertones and use of the signature sitar and thumping drums. It’s an uplifting, life-affirming collage of travel, freedom, love and loss. A cacophony of every feeling you’ve ever felt meshed into one. With this number, I suggest you just put your ear-buds in, close your eyes and listen. You’ll fast find that you love wherever you are, whatever you’re doing.

“The Desert Guide” and “Fortress” continue on with the ethereal, wispy vocal style Pepa seems to have patented throughout the recording process. While the EP doesn’t exactly hit its peak at this point in my opinion, these tracks provide good fodder for a respectable first offering. It’s here where the experimental nature of the whole project shines through, and will earn big points with fans of his previous stuff.

The latest single release, “Coyote Choir”, is a happy little tune, giving a courageous nod to harder times. It’s a very solid number, perhaps the easiest to digest on the collection if you’re into simpler pop tunes. That’s not to say it’s actually “simple” in any recognisable way. It’s just very heightening. Again, intensely busy percussion sections mix with an uncommon mix of string elements to create something truly unique. Not just because of the fact that this is a style of music not often heard on the Australian circuit, but because Pepa somehow manages to mix his pop prowess with the unknown in such a masterful way. Honestly, in songs like “Coyote Choir”, the most unique part about it is that when it comes to pure likability and respect for musicianship, you don’t have to sacrifice one for the other.

I know this is supposed to be an album review. But it feels like an injustice for someone like me to talk about Pepa Knight’s Hyptonized Vol. 1 in terms of the music. The man is a fucking talented virtuoso, way outside of my ability to describe. It’s much easier to listen to the album and just get happy about life.

*****

8.7 / 10

Hypnotized Vol. 1 is available now. For more information visit the online store HERE

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ALBUM REVIEW: Bear Hands – Distraction

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This article first appeared on The AU Review.

When it comes to New York’s Bear Hands, a lot of what’s involved in their latest album Distraction is what I’d call, “beautifully flawed”. For starters, in the first half a decade of being a band, they managed to split up, fall out as a band and with their manager, get back together all over again and release a debut album. To date, they have been trucking along for almost a solid decade and have released two full lengths with label support (their latest included), their popularity growing at a reasonably steady rate everyday. It took them a long time to get to this point, and despite a short backlog on hand the boys from Bear Hands have made sure that on first listen of the new album, you’ll find quality truly does kick quantities ass.

Distraction kicks off in an ominous haze of faux woodwind glory and intriguing vocals in “Moments Of Silence”, making short work of expectations, blowing them to smithereens when the song hits a huge climax that is both seizure inducing and liberating. It’s a tune to match the sweetest of anthems. Tracks like “Giants” and “Impasse” are messy and melodic, sticking with the whole brilliantly erratic vibe of the album. At one point the lyrics emulate this as frontman Dylan Rau spits, “You changed from crazy to calm,” something that rings true of this entire showcase.

When it hits the single “Agora”, it becomes abundantly clear that what we’ve heard so far is no fluke. For years, house parties have been lacking. Defeated to listening to tracks about hitting the town and sinking shots in clubs. But for those of us who enjoy a good old case of tins and a few friends ’round the backyard, there’s finally have a party anthem for the home-bodies – and “Agora” is it. The hook is smooth, packed with attitude and catchy as all diggity, singing ”You like to hang out, but don’t leave the house [cause I can’t]”, almost like it’s a courageous feat to be chilling at home. And I can’t shake this feeling that there’s a drunken sing-a-long on the way…

All the fun aside, if Distraction were to go down in history as one of the greats, it would likely be because of two singular tracks, “Bone Digger” and “The Bug”. The former builds in a clever way, chugging along with solidarity and just enough swag to make you intrigued about what’s coming next. By the time the keys and second guitar arrive to fill the gaps your head will be bopping in full swing. While a lot of the collection takes a bit of time to hit it’s stride (totally worth it), “The Bug” gets straight to the point. There are parts in there that kind of feel a little retro, either in the way that it’s recorded or even just the vibe in general. It’s a killer track with static, well placed bass meshing with off-beat guitar lines that combine for a friggen bad ass tune.

Usually, if I used the words “beautifully flawed” to describe an album, nine times out of ten it would be taken as a negative. But with this review, when I locked in my ear-buds and hit play it became apparent real quick. “Flawed” definitely isn’t always a negative. In the case of Distraction, it’s the things that would feel like flaws in a pop song that bring it’s tracks to life in a way that not a lot of seasoned rock acts can. Maybe it’s the recording techniques, maybe it’s in the attitudes or the way the songs can feel a little obtuse at times. It’s classic, raw, untainted. At the same time it’s authentic, anthemic and catchy enough to warrant a cheeky linger on the repeat button. All I can say is if it takes another decade to see what else they have up their sleeve, I’ll be sorely disappointed.

*****

Score: 8.3 / 10

Distraction is available now. For more information on Bear Hands visit their official Facebook Page HERE

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