FEATURE: Albums Of The Year – 2011

This is more a quick list of albums I’ve enjoyed over this last year than some kind of definitive I-went-through-my-entire-iTunes-library-and-ranked-everything-in-order list. I might have missed a couple of releases – all I know is I really liked all these ones. You might too.

So without further ado, Album of the Year goes to…

Los Campesinos - Hello Sadness

Los Campesinos!Hello Sadness

Hello Sadness sees Los Campesinos! trying to refine their output into a concise body of work. A structured and focused album. Gareth’s imagery is darker than ever, and hidden within the album are melodic hooks and intricacies that take a while to become apparent (the vocal crescendo in “To Tundra” is nothing short of beautiful). Brilliant, and another great release to add to their discography.

Other albums I enjoyed, in rough order of how much I enjoyed them, kind of. Just look.

Johnny Foreigner - Vs Everything

Johnny ForeignerJohnny Foreigner Vs Everything

A very close runner-up for AotY. Messy on the first few listens, it truly opens itself up after a few sit-throughs, and it gets better and better. Loud, fast, interesting, moving. Time will determine its longevity and significance in their discography, but it’s definitely a huge step in the band’s journey – hopefully one of many more to come.

Thrice - Major/Minor

ThriceMajor/Minor

Consistent and strong. Not one song feels under-baked. There are a lot of huge cathartic sing-a-long moments, and I don’t care whether or not you associate that as being a good thing or not with Thrice, but I think lyrically and musically this is an incredibly good album. Stunning. If you only listen to one song from Major/Minor, check out “Words in the Water”.

Bon Iver - Bon Iver, Bon Iver

Bon IverBon Iver, Bon Iver

Intricate. Delicate. Evocative. This is a great album full of great songs, and they paint a picture unlike many musicians ever could. It’s easy to understand why it got Pitchfork’s Album of the Year.

Radiohead - The King of Limbs

RadioheadThe King of Limbs

Arguably a step back towards their more experimental work, this was a tough album to digest. It’s entirely possible that this album takes even longer to appreciate and understand than a year, and maybe with more time I’ll enjoy it even more. It definitely has its high points, and it’s full of interesting textures – but I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about it. It still gets a place here though, ’cause it’s quite good.

Grieves - Together/Apart

GrievesTogether/Apart

With the help of producer, multi-instrumentalist, and beat-maker – Budo – Grieves has released a great album here. Criticised by many (unfairly so, I believe) for his consistently emotive lyrics, Grieves tells stories of girls, drinking, anxiety, and those monsters under your bed, amongst everything else, and while it can feel like a long haul at times, there are a pile of gems on this album. If you needed any more proof that the Rhymesayers crew were some of the best out there, this shouldn’t take long to convince you.

The Weeknd - House of Balloons

The WeekndHouse of Balloons

This particular instalment of The Weeknd’s trilogy of 2011 releases is making my list not because I believe it’s the best of the three, but simply because I haven’t been able to give Thursday or Echoes Of Silence a fair go yet.
That aside, this release is really interesting. I’ve never really been into R&B in a huge way, yet The Weeknd drew me in. And it’s interesting because it paints a picture of a world so foreign that I struggle to find any personal connections. It almost feels voyeuristic to listen to. It’s intriguing at any rate, and was well worth my time. It’s free too.

Foo Fighters - Wasting Light

Foo FightersWasting Light

A great album from a rock band still going strong, after all these years. Consistent, full of energy, and another strong release from a band that really are going to stand the test of time.

These last few albums haven’t had as many listens as those above, but from the amount of time I’ve given them, I like them a lot. Very much worth mentioning here.

Example - Playing in the Shadows

ExamplePlaying in the Shadows

Slow ClubParadise

Phantogram - Nightlife EP

PhantogramNightlife EP

LIVE: Celadore, live at The Phoenix, Canberra (17-11-11)

Beginning a few minutes after we arrived, The Streetlight Parade – a local Canberran band – seemed to have improved since last I saw them. The band appeared to enjoy themselves much more with their newfound confidence, and it showed throughout their set. Full of gigantic pop hooks and bright riffs, they proved themselves to once again be a burgeoning local force, playing a very entertaining set.

Celadore took to the stage soon afterwards. The trio pushed their expansive sound across the small pub, filling every corner with their assaulting and melodic rock. Raw and emotive, yet still refined and to the point, Celadore played song after song that seemed to explode forth from the small stage. Pop hooks seemed to permeate their songs, catching in not only their occasional simplicity, but also their execution.

With a keen sense for dynamics and emotive fluctuations, the band’s set felt varied and it seemed to keep people interested – as did the personal stage banter. Being only familiar with single “Distance is a Gun”, I couldn’t sing along to too many songs on the night (although this was remedied by the fact I bought both of their EPs afterwards). But Celadore managed to put on a fun show for the people paying attention, and when there was no cover charge to get in, what more can you ask for? A free night of great rock music!

Celadore have plenty of potential in the Australian scene – the only issue will be crafting that one amazing single that catches on everywhere. Once they find that magic number, or that avenue to really launch them, you might end up hearing a lot more from these guys.

LIVE: The Living End, live at ANU Bar, Canberra (07-09-11)

There’s no doubt about it: The Living End still have it.

On Wednesday night I relived my first ever gig. Just over five years ago I saw The Living End at the Albury Wodonga Civic Centre – they were touring their then freshly pressed album State of Emergency. As a three-piece, their performance set the bar for years to come. It’s nice to see nothing’s changed.

King Cannons opened the night, blasting through the quickly growing crowd with their hard-edged catchy rock. Although their sound builds itself on pop hooks, don’t be fooled – these guys have got it in them to bring the house down. Although I rarely mention this aspect of a band, you’ll struggle to find a more consistently fashionable group – with black shirts, slick hair, and tattoos aplenty, they not only sounded great, but they looked the part.

Hunting Grounds filled the stage with their band, and it was interesting to see them swap instruments and roles over the course of their set. Without a doubt, their explosive rock really came to fruition with the final song – drums being smashed, a guitarist in the photo pit, a beaten up cymbal being thrown around, and some drumstick duelling all made it an amazing closer. Like King Cannons, they have live energy and talent – it’d be nice to see both bands go somewhere further in the future.

The Living End took to the stage, and surprisingly I didn’t break any ribs against the barrier in the “surge”. Well, it wasn’t so much a crowd surge as a gentle push. Not that I was complaining, but the crowd did take a little while to warm up.

Which got me thinking about the kind of band TLE are. The first songs were from their latest album, The Ending Is Just The Beginning Repeating, and don’t get me wrong – the reception for them was great, but it was still lukewarm relative to old favourites like “West End Riot” and “Roll On”.

“No kidding”, you’re thinking. “Generally people know a band’s older songs, of course there’s going to be a stronger reception.”

Well, that might seem logically right, but it’s not always true. There are plenty of bands that release a new album, get flogged by radio, and most will only know those songs. Everyone knows “White Noise” got one hell of a flogging. But despite that, TLE are still different. We had 99% of a room screaming along to tracks like “Prisoner of Society” and “All Torn Down”, both of which were released years and years ago.

Does this mean their albums are getting worse? No, of course not. But it shows that The Living End are one of the few contemporary Australian bands that have written songs that generations will consider “classics”. This is a band with longevity, who have paid their dues and toured relentlessly. This is a band who consistently draw all sorts of people to their gigs – from teenagers to adults who’re over 50. Plenty of bands can write decent hooks and memorable songs – only a rare few can write classics that stay with a generation for years upon years.

And only a rare few can play their songs so damn well! Chris Cheney commands the stage like a seasoned veteran, and his guitar is played so effortlessly it’s like another limb. Andy and Scott tear through their respective parts, and as proficient as the band is, you can’t deny the work they’re putting into the performance when they’re sweating all over the stage.

The Living End are not only skilled musicians, but skilled showmen – they all know how to present themselves on stage and get the most out of their music. This latest tour has seen another guitarist, Adrian, playing live, and he’s a welcome addition – he really does seem to flesh out the band’s sound.

There are few bands of this calibre. The Living End set the bar for music fans, inspire musicians, and are good at what they do – let’s hope they stick around for many years to come.

I didn’t take many photos. You can check out some nice ones over at FasterLouder though.

LIVE: The Bedroom Philosopher, live at Transit Bar, Canberra (28-08-11)

Like an elephant running rampant through a tennis court, The Bedroom Philosopher demands your attention – because, like that image he’s quite funny, but also because you just aren’t sure what the hell is going to happen next.

Walking into the room with a guitar, he provided some dramatic music for two guys playing pool (incidentally the guy missed his shot). He then began snapping his fingers and strumming along, before pulling a shaker out of his mouth. Then pulling a party whistle out of his mouth, he proceeded to play it as well. It set the mood for a set filled with the sorts of antics most artists either look down upon, or are too scared to try themselves, and that’s really what sets him apart as both a comedian and a musician.

What’s particularly astounding is Justin Heazlewood’s unique brand of absurdist humour. In terms of jokes, anything goes, and any number of toes are guaranteed to be trodden on. Belconnen Labor Club, University of Canberra, and the crowd’s attempts at clapping along were all on the agenda for the night, and it was great to see everyone take it in good humour.

It was unfortunate that I failed to pick up a lot of what he was singing, and the lyrical talent I know he has failed to translate on the night. Maybe it was my position off to the side, but it felt like a lot of it was mumbled. Fortunately when you go to see The Bedroom Philosopher, you get a great deal more in a gig.

His mash-up of hits “I’m So Post Modern” and “Northcote (So Hungover)” was particularly well done, as was his impromptu rant and song aimed at the guy sitting with his back to him. When said bar patron decided to join Mr Heazlewood on stage I did worry a little, but it turned out he just wanted to stand up there with him. There may have been a hug involved, I can’t quite remember.

When it all boils down to it, The Bedroom Philosopher is both quick-witted and insightful, and as catchy as his songs are, what puts him above similar artists is how amusing and unpredictable his performance is. The sort of rare self-deprecating humour in his act is something that can only be off-set by the reading of a touching poem about depression on a packet of Cheerios (which he also offered to the audience).

The Bedroom Philosopher is not only mesmerising, but in a way that other acts most definitely are not. Without pushing his point, you can take what you want from his art – but no matter how you see it, you’ll definitely be entertained.

LIVE: Joelistics, live at Transit Bar, Canberra (18-08-11)

Joelistics began his set talking to a room of seated people, but within 10 minutes it was a completely different story. The Melbournian artist opened with a didactic spoken-word rap – no beats, no music – called “I Am By Virtue”, and it was then that everyone in the room knew it was going to be a special gig. Not only because of his clear verses, or the confidence he displayed as he took to the stage, but because of the content covered and the meaning behind his rhymes. Joelistics is an artist who not only thinks, but makes his audience think too, and it was warming to see the small crowd at Transit Bar recognise and appreciate such a rare performer.

Rhythmically his flow was nothing short of the mark, and it was with practiced hands that he took the mic and filled the small room with his thoughts. “Glorious Feeling” and “Days”, from Joelistics latest release Voyager, lit the room up with excitement, but that’s not to say the rest of his set didn’t either. We were lucky enough to be treated to an old TZU track, and a cover of a cover – Joelistics covering TZU’s cover of You Am I’s “Heavy Heart”. To see Joel Ma bring out an acoustic guitar and sing to us all in such an intimate setting not only displayed his broad musical talent, but changed the pace of his set. It threw things around a bit, and often that can be a good thing.

It would be unfair to say Joelistics sounded like his recordings – he sounded better. Even standing right next to the speaker, it sounded brilliant in the tiny bar, which can be attributed to Ishu, who not only filled a support slot but played the role of sound guy as well. The improvisation from Joelistics and DJ Soup added an extra element of anticipation that soaked into the audience. After bringing out some special items for the set, no one really knew what to expect, but our patience was rewarded by what I’m fairly certain was some truly inspiring freestyling.

It was warming to see Joelistics standing on the edge of the stage, smiling out at the few people who had turned out to see him play. His performance cemented him as one of the most talented hip-hop artists we have. Clear verses, strong rhythms, and a deserved confidence with the mic: Joelistics gave us not only a strong performance, but something to think about as we left Transit to brave Canberra’s cold.

LIVE: The Panda Band, live at ANU Bar, Canberra (17-08-11)

Continuing my accidental streak of missing the opening support act, I didn’t catch Paryce’s set. Instead, Beth ‘N’ Ben (above) started the night for me with their brand of bluesy folk. It spread throughout the sparse onlooking crowd, and although there was a small turnout, it was offset by the band’s encouragement to get lost in the music – an offer which was all the encouragement most people needed to dance and cheer. It’s surprising how often a band’s attitude can affect the atmosphere of a gig, and the playful banter between a few members really proved to lighten the mood. Importantly, the band looked like they were having fun too.

Beth ‘N’ Ben don’t burden their music with cliched literary techniques, instead focusing more on simply telling a story. Unfortunately that’s where they seem to fall short. I feel like that writing style needs to be coupled with those special hooks that throw the song up in the air. That special moment that gets the whole crowd participating, almost anthemic in nature, and it just didn’t feel like there were many opportunities for that on Wednesday. They seem to be gradually nailing that musical niche they occupy, but it would bring so much more to their live show to see their song-writing grow with that in focus. That said, they were entertaining to watch, and let’s be honest, there aren’t many bands that sell g-strings and bibs as merchandise.

The Panda Band took the stage shortly afterwards, and I want to address an issue before I talk about their set.

I felt that in terms of acoustics or sound quality, their set suffered. Even standing as far back as possible due to the overbearing volume, it still felt uncomfortable, and although I should have remembered my earplugs, no band needs to be that loud. Whether it was the acoustics of ANU bar, or the sound set up, the band sounded clearer and more enjoyable when I blocked my ears. This was no fault of the band, but it did influence my enjoyment a bit.

Apart from that, I found their playing quite enjoyable, but their performance itself a little lacklustre. They looked a little bored, almost as if they didn’t want to be there, and although I can understand the disappointment with what was probably a smaller than expected turnout, it didn’t translate into a positive vibe. Rarely did lead singer and guitarist Damian Crosbie really let go and move around, and although their playing sounded quite solid, there does have to be an element of energy in a live performance.

That said, I felt their music did translate well live, and without the unfortunate sound issues it would’ve sounded even better. The combination of grandiose drumming patterns, which seemed to stay rhythmically interesting, and the band’s bright melodies, really had this sense of style about them. There’s no doubt about The Panda Band – they certainly know how to form their hooks into well-developed and mature songs, and if they can inject some more energy and atmosphere into their set, they’ll definitely be heading onto much bigger things.

The Panda Band are still touring around, and you can check out all of the dates over here.

TOUR: All Our Friends At Night 2011

Once again, All Our Friends At Night is returning to Canberra, bringing with it a small selection of Parklife artists! Which is very exciting, especially after the recent announcement that there will be no Parklife 2011 sideshows.

Check out the line up below. It looks like it’s going to be a pretty amazing night!

MSTRKRFT
Example
Wolfgang Gartner
Nero

Plus local acts:
Offtapia
Peking Duk
Cheese

8PM FRIDAY 23 SEPTEMBER 2011
UC REFECTORY, University of Canberra

Tickets on sale 9AM MONDAY 22 AUGUST 2011
18+ event
Tickets available from http://www.moshtix.com.au/​event.aspx?id=49336&ref=mo​shtix&skin
1st release: $69.95 (BF inc) 2nd release: $79.95 (BF inc)

LIVE: Regurgitator, live at ANU Bar, Canberra (14-08-11)

Disasteradio played before Regurgitator last night (I missed Super Best Friends as the very first support), and he was interesting to say the very least. The set was very energetic, and filled with nothing but passion for his music, which from what I could tell was made solely with a laptop, some synths, and maybe a sampler. He was leaping all over the stage while what can be described as this blindingly cheery, synth-orientated, dance music erupted out of the speakers. It was a very full on set, and for just one guy on stage, he managed to hold everyone’s attention, which is no mean feat. Ultimately I couldn’t fault his stage presence or playing, however the music didn’t seem to have the highs and lows I feel it needs to build up the tension properly. It just felt like one big sugar rush of dance, but it was entertaining at any rate.

Next up were Regurgitator, who certainly know how to work a crowd. Their playing was exceptional, and for a band that can write some songs with serious meaning, they seemed to come in just wanting to have a bit of fun. Which considering their style of music is a brilliant attitude to have, and in terms of atmosphere, it really paid off (plus the skeleton suits were really quite cool).

The band flicked between old favourites and newer material, pleasing older fans in the crowd, which in general seemed to respond quite well for a Sunday night! For anyone unfamiliar, Regurgitator seem to have this knack of crafting short, fun songs – whether they’re guitar-based or bring in a bit of synth, they always seem to have this brilliant groove to them that manages to get people moving.

I feel Regurgitator encapsulate the kind of Australian band that’s been touring and making music for years, yet still only really gets half the recognition it deserves. Which is a shame, but it’s a testament to the passion they have for what they’re doing that they’re still out there, selling tickets for $30, and playing shows to whoever will come out and see them. They played for well over an hour, and although they didn’t bring out “Destroy This Town” or “Love and Paranoia” (two of my favourites), their set was nonetheless full of energy and it was infectious. Regurgitator have still got quite a few dates left on their Annual Sail tour, so if you can, go out and see them.

TOUR: Stonefest 2011

This morning the lineup for one of Canberra’s biggest music festivals was released: Stonefest! Stonefest has been around for 43 years, is held annually on University of Canberra grounds, and is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

This year the festival will be spread across three stages, and it’s going to be massive: The Superstage, UC Refectory Stage, and Zierholz stage.

Here’s the lineup, listed under each stage, and ordered by playing times (thanks to Frontier Touring for that info)! You could almost plan your day off this already!

THE SUPERSTAGE

The Vines
The Grates
Jebediah
Josh Pyke
Jonathan Boulet
Stonefield
Redcoats
Crash the Curb
triple j Unearthed winner
Changeovers: Purple Sneakers DJs

UC REFECTORY STAGE

The Aston Shuffle LIVE
Tonite Only
Flight Facilities
Illy
360
Pez
Diafrix
Sampology (AV/DJ Set)
D’Opus and Roshambo
Dept of Defiance
Changeovers: Jemist

ZIERHOLZ STAGE

Ball Park Music
Lanie Lane
Big Scary
Hunting Grounds
Owl Eyes
The Snowdroppers
The Bedroom Philosopher
Velociraptor
Fun Machine
Vacant Field

+ SILENT PARTY

hosted by The Hump Day Project
featuring
Pang! DJs
Strangeways DJs
Architect DJs
PARTY BY JAKE DJs
Swim Team DJs
MUM DJs
M.I.T.

Stonefest is an 18+ event, and is held on Saturday the 29th of October.

Ticket prices are as follows:

Student Offer: $61.40 + booking fee (Valid student ID required)
General admission: $88.00 + booking fee
VIP: $165.00 + booking fee

Pre-sale tickets are go from 2pm AEST, Monday the 15th of August, for 24 hours or until allocation is exhausted. Sign up for the pre-sale over at Frontier Touring.
General public tickets go on sale at 9am, Friday the 19th of August. Tickets are being sold through Ticketek.

TOUR: The Panics and The Drones!

First up, The Panics have revealed that they’ll be heading around the country playing songs from their latest album, Rain On The Humming Wire. These guys have been fairly busy of late, but now they’re back out on the road, and they’re doing quite a few shows. Try and see them somewhere if you can.

Dates and venues:

Friday 26th August – Mess & Noise Lunchbox, Worker’s Club
Wednesday 14th September – Settlers Tavern, Margaret River
Thursday 15th September – Prince Of Wales, Bunbury
Friday 16th September – Astor Theatre, Perth
Saturday 17th September – Fly By Night, Fremantle
Wednesday 21st September – Anu Bar, Canberra
Thursday 22nd September – Uni Bar, Wollongong
Friday 23rd September – Level One, Leagues Club, Newcastle
Saturday 24th September – Metro Theatre, Sydney
Thursday 29th September – Saloon Bar, Launceston
Friday 30th September – Wrest Point Showroom
Thursday 6th October – Great Northern Hotel, Byron Bay
Friday 7th October – Hi Fi, Brisbane
Saturday 8th October – Coolangatta Hotel, Gold Coast
Wednesday 12th October – Theatre Royal, Castlemaine
Thursday 13th October – Bended Elbow, Geelong
Friday 14th October – The Palace Theatre, Melbourne
Saturday 15th October – The Gov, Hindmarsh

Looks like tickets go on sale at 9am on the 10th of August (that’s when Canberra goes on sale anyway), from, uh… all over the place really. Check out their blog post over here to see where you need to buy your tickets from (and check release dates too, just ’cause these will probably go pretty fast).

In slightly more exciting news (for me, personally), The Drones have announced a handful of shows as well! I’ve heard glowing reviews of The Drones’ live performances, so I will definitely not be missing them when they swing by Canberra. Adalita will be supporting all shows as well!

These shows will run alongside the release of their live DVD, entitled A Thousand Mistakes, which is released on the 16th of September, and if you’re a fan of The Drones you’re definitely going to want to pick it up.

Check out the trailer for it below these tour details:

Friday 7th October – ANU Bar, Canberra
Saturday 8th October – Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle
Friday 14th October – The Corner Hotel, Melbourne
Friday 21st October – The Bakery, Perth
Saturday 22nd October – The Governor Hindmarsh , Adelaide
Friday 28th October – The Hi Fi, Brisbane
Saturday 29th October – The Metro, Sydney

Tickets go on sale on the 11th of August, from all over the place, again. The lovely folk at Tone Deaf have all the details if you’re interested! Over here!