LIVE: Groovin’ The Moo, Canberra, 2011.

A couple of weeks ago I attended the Canberra leg of the Groovin’ The Moo festival.

Overall, it was a great day. Getting negative comments out of the way, there were a few jerks in the crowd, and a few sections reeked of weed, but what can you do right? The day was so much fun it was unbelievable, although it probably helped spending it with some great friends too. Over the day I saw a few full sets, and a few partial sets, but here’s what I took from it all.

The Jezabels:

Clearly these guys should’ve been billed much higher. Brilliant drumming, especially on the last track they played (not sure of the title). Their playing was incredibly tight, the singer has an amazing voice, and the crowd knew both of these things. The Jezabels have been climbing up the ranks of Aussie bands for a while now and it shows.

Sampology:

Saw part of his set, but it was really fun. Mixing visuals and sound, The Mighty Boosh remix he did of the Bouncy Castle crimp was brilliant. The Queen singalong was also spectacular.

Datarock:

Saw the first 5 odd minutes of their set and a bit at the end. They sounded really fun, wish I could’ve stayed longer. The saxophonist sounded brilliant.

Plus they had giant inflatable condoms on stage. Enough said.

The Go! Team:

Hadn’t heard much of their work beforehand, but they were really fun and energetic. Almost in a “I really want to dance to these guys” way. I loved how the band members regularly changed instruments too. Added a bit of variation and excitement into the set.

House of Pain:

Witnessed the end of their set, and saw everyone running over for “Jump Around”. It truly was a sight to behold. The whole crowd got involved.

Gyroscope:

The crowd was pretty lacklustre for the first half of their set, but they got them moving eventually. Very big, raw sound. At the time I was in line at the signing tent to meet Birds of Tokyo, but I could still see them. They put on a good show.

Gotye:

Disappointingly, from my spot as I was getting ready for Birds of Tokyo, I could only hear Gotye playing. Couldn’t see them. But they sounded great. Wally De Backer has an astounding voice. Everyone on stage worked together to recreate the tracks in a live environment. If I could go back in time, I’d make sure I saw their whole set.

Birds of Tokyo:

Not sure there’s much for me to say here. Amazing. Brilliant. They sounded great as usual, and their set was really engaging. Still one of my favourite live acts.

The Wombats:

Only knew a little of their material, but they were fun. Did a good job with the crowd I thought, and they sounded pretty close to their studio material from what I could tell.

Bliss N Eso:

I am unbelievably happy I watched these guys do their thing. I’m a fan of the singles I’ve heard from them, but still don’t have “Running On Air”. Might have to get it now.

Out of the whole festival, Bliss N Eso were one of the best acts playing. They know how to get a crowd going. They know how to perform well. They know how to interact with the audience. They know how to get people moving. They had a brilliant DJ. Everything about their show was great. If you have a chance to see them, do it.

Cut Copy:

By this time, I was well and truly freezing. But Cut Copy sounded good. It seemed like a lot of the crowd had left for Drapht, but they did a really good job of getting everyone going. I’m not the biggest fan of their pop, but some of it sounded pretty good. In terms of replicating their sound live, they were great. If you’re a fan, see them.

~

That was my day. It was brilliant, and I’m proud of GTM for making their festival all ages. One of the most frustrating things about being under 18 is missing out on a heap of amazing gigs. Thanks to GTM, everyone could see a brilliant line-up of musicians.

INTERVIEW: Big Bird’s Bear Trap

Yesterday a friend of mine directed me to a YouTube video, and my mind was absolutely blown.

Although uploaded over a year and a half ago, and consisting of a home recording from their lounge room, Big Bird’s Bear Trap’s video shows them displaying serious vigour and energy as they perform one of their earliest songs. Their fan-base may not have expanded far beyond the local region, but if the video is anything to go by, then BBBT have one of the wildest live shows going around right now.

Of course, the harsh instrumentation and occasional screaming may put some listeners off, but the beautiful undertones of honesty and integrity in the lyrics will hit home for many, and it’s the contrast between the quieter moments the band has and these brutal surges that really differentiate them from other artists.

I caught up with Mitch Reinke from the band to talk about the band’s future and how they feel about their older material.

On the Tune: You guys have been fairly quiet recently, what’s happening? Can we expect some new material soon?

Mitch: Yeah, you’re right we have been quiet for a while. We sort of took a year of to pursue other goals we had and we were going to just see what happens I guess. We have a few projects going and a few new bands coming up but you never know, BBBT might be back sooner than you know.

OtT: Your live shows look insane – any chance of a tour sometime soon?

M: Look, we are in the process of working out logistics for a tour but with the tightening rules around firework accessibility, gun control regulations and the fact that OH&S say were not allowed to get 17 independently powered Van der Graaf generators to make the crowds stand on end, due to a high risk of mass electrocution to what ever city we would be touring in first, it might be a little while before its up and running. But we will keep the fans informed.

OtT: What was your inspiration for “Ode to Beethoven”? Apart from Beethoven, of course.

M: “Ode to Beethoven” was a fantastic breakthrough song for us as we were really experimenting through many different genres of music, which ones sort of just melded naturally together, and low and behold it turns out we stumbled upon something. Who knew Classical and what we like to call DESTRUCTO METAL would fuse so perfectly together in a sort of harmonic and sanctimonious love fest of notes. I guess the reason that we were inspired to dedicate this song to Beethoven was just that we wanted to have a song that really showed the evolution of music from where it was back then to where it is now, and I think that Beethoven’s music really summed up the feeling in his day, and I believe our music really sums up the world we live in now. But again that is open to the individual’s interpretation.

OtT: I hear Warner Music have picked you up recently, is this true? Are you signed now?

M: That’s a simple misunderstanding there, but the label was in fact WarNed not Warner. WarNed Records is a record company based in Austria and the rough translation is War=WAS and Ned=NOT. Its great working with Was Not (to use their English name) Records, they’re all really great guys and despite not being able to understand them we have had a great time. This would also answer a question of the next album release date which will be, as far as I can gather from the reaction I got from our producer when I asked him the question, “ich verstehe dich nicht, ich verstehe dich nicht, ich weiss nicht was du hast gesagt.” And I can only presume that is good, so it shouldn’t be too long.

FEATURE: Albums Of The Year – 2010

2010 was one of those odd years where I can’t say I listened to a whole heap of new albums. For example Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs only got a few spins, despite how good I think it is, just because I got distracted I guess. Anyway, without further ado – my top few releases of 2010, and some not from 2010 too.

Album of the Year: Los Campesinos! – Romance Is Boring

I think I knew months ago that this would be my favourite. RiB displays LC!’s true talent in crafting amazingly evocative, relatable, indie-pop/twee music, and the size of the band (they’re an 8-piece) adds another dimension to their music. From start to finish this album doesn’t let up, and I really see it as the culmination of their hard work on previous releases. A brilliant album, well worth trying.

Notable mentions:

The National – High Violet

Birds of Tokyo – Self-titled

Dead Letter Circus – This Is The Warning

Delphic – Acolyte

Los Campesinos! – Alls Well That Ends [EP]

Johnny Foreigner – You Thought You Saw a Shooting Star But Yr Eyes Were Blurred With Tears and That Lighthouse Can Be Pretty Deceiving With the Sky So Clear and the Sea So Calm – EP

There are other releases out there I listened to, but not enough to really appreciate or develop a real opinion of – so I’ll leave them out.

The rest of the year was spent appreciating Johnny Foreigner’s two albums, which are absolutely brilliant. They have cemented themselves as one of my favourite bands in the past three months, and hopefully will one day get the recognition they deserve. I also discovered the rapper P.O.S. who is amazing, with a great delivery and provocative lyrics.

For those interested, the past twelve months on Last.fm show my top artists as:

  1. Los Campesinos! – 2471 plays
  2. Karnivool – 1354 plays
  3. Johnny Foreigner – 1264 plays
  4. The National – 959 plays
  5. Radiohead – 853 plays
  6. Birds of Tokyo – 787 plays
  7. Dead Letter Circus – 664 plays
  8. Bloc Party – 523 plays
  9. We Are Scientists – 325 plays
  10. Death Cab For Cutie – 258 plays
  11. Thom Yorke – 253 plays
  12. Queens of the Stone Age – 231 plays
  13. Josh Pyke – 223 plays
  14. Modest Mouse – 198 plays
  15. P.O.S. – 182 plays

Happy New Year everyone!

REVIEW: Birds of Tokyo – “Birds of Tokyo” – initial thoughts

Though I’m currently going through a self-imposed Facebook exile in order to get more school work done, the moment I heard about a stream of the new Birds of Tokyo album being made available to “fans” of the band, I had to get onto it! Luckily someone I know managed to quickly provide me with the appropriate details to access the stream (if you’re reading this, you know who you are, thank you!), and so I decided to take 40 or so minutes out of my day to tell you all about it.

Beginning with the ambient, relaxing, second single from the album, the title track “Plans” launches the album into something that feels incredibly different from their sophomore release “Universes”. Instead of the relatively heavy guitars of “Broken Bones”, “Plans” seems to be leaning in a poppier direction. But who’s complaining? Ian Kenny’s vocal melodies work just as well in this area as they do in his rockier work (which is more than evident in his work with Karnivool). It doesn’t feel like they’re pushing themselves in this direction either. From “Universes” it feels like an easy progression. Despite what some may claim, I really don’t feel like this is selling out at all. If this gets played on commercial mainstream radio, all the better in my opinion.

After “Plans” fades out, we’re reintroduced to “The Saddest Thing I Know”, the first single from the album. “The Saddest Thing…” lifts the album back into familiar territory with a groovy and prominent bass-line, overlayed with tremolo guitar lines.

“The Dark Side Of Love” is about exactly that, though despite it’s sullen subject matter, it’s not overbearing and weighty. Which is good, because if it were I feel it’d be a bit too much too soon. It moves along at a solid pace though, and it does a good job of reinforcing my confidence in  BoT’s ability to craft solid albums through and through, not opting for the easy path of singles and filler material.

“In The Veins Of Death Valley” isn’t as gloomy as it sounds, and it’s a good continuation on from “The Dark Side…”. This song isn’t clicking with me right now, so I’m hesistant to really say whether I like it or not. I think I’d rather just leave it.

Moving onto “Circles”, the album starts moving the way I thought it would. Though not as radio-friendly as “Plans”, it has a relaxing start to it, before bring in some churning palm-muted guitars. It shows that the band hasn’t merely focused on the upbeat, rockier side of things, musically. They’re bringing out tracks that contrast with each other, which is what can help make an album successful in the long term.

Though “Wild At Heart” brings out an interesting drumming pattern, and lightly sprinkled string lines, it hasn’t caught on me yet. It just seemed to pass me by. Though bear in mind, these are comments after a first listen. I’m pretty patient, so time will tell.

“The Gap” starts off with what feels like a monotonous guitar rhythm. Once the strings become sprinkled over the top it becomes more interesting though. The chorus builds the song up, but it’s the layered vocals, the bridge/coda near the end, and the thumping drums before the song fades out that stand this one out there.

“Murmurs” begins with a lightly picked guitar line before rocketing into a punchy chorus. The piano melodies in the back suit this song really well, and Kenny’s vocals sound particularly amazing on this. Lyrically so far this album seems at least on par with “Universes”, though I often find judging lyrical quality easier after quite a few listens. Sometimes it takes a while to see if they have a strong longevity.

“The Unspeakable Scene” begins lightly before abruptly introducing a jumpy guitar riff, which is complimented by the strings melodies in the background. This album certainly feels more symphonic than previous releases.

“Waiting For The Wolves” has a great chorus, but it easily slides into the description of any of the rockier songs mentioned. Still with that layer of strings, still with that thumping bass line. Featuring a line of “oh’s”, it feels like they try to reach anthemic heights but don’t quite get there. I’m sure it’ll be a hit to sing along to at gigs, but the feeling doesn’t quite translate to a studio format. None-the-less, it’s still an alright song.

With a title like “If This Ship Sinks (I Give In)” I was expecting something brilliant, and I got it. Not letting up in terms of pace for the first section, it then moves onto a descending piano line and sombre bridge, finally fading out to finish everything up.

Overall, the album feels solid and consistent at the very least, and those who fell in love with “Universes” will most likely adore this release. The side of BoT that they explore in slower, atmospheric numbers like “Circles” has gotta be the highlight for me. They just seem to set the mood so much more effectively than other tracks. I can’t praise Kenny’s vocal skills enough, and although they aren’t exactly an experimental or challenging band, they’ve got some good songs here. For me, “Universes” was solid, and has some infectious and brilliant songs, but overall as an album it didn’t quite stand the test of time. So far this one doesn’t have the equivalent of “Silhouettic” or “Broken Bones”, but “Plans” and “The Saddest Thing…” are completely different songs, and are well done in their own right. Time and longevity will no doubt be the real test for this album as well, but I can definitely see it hitting a few Australian end of year lists. For a first listen, it’s not bad at all.

BRAND NEW/TOUR: Birds of Tokyo – “Plans”

I’ve been wondering for quite some time what Birds of Tokyo were doing with the new album. They released new single “The Saddest Thing I Know” a while ago (the clip is in 3D if you’ve got a pair of glasses floating around!), but there were no details on the new album.

But, good things come to those that wait. And things don’t get much better than this.

Due to be released on the 23rd of July, Birds of Tokyo’s third album, which is to be self-titled, is looking to be amazing. As always, Ian Kenny’s vocal melodies are brilliant. The softer ambient atmosphere is a bit of a throw away from previous tracks like “Silhouettic”, but let’s not forget, in terms of alternative music BoT really are on the poppier side of things, which is not intended as a derogatory description at all. I can easily see this being the album where they really break onto mainstream commercial radio. For such a solid band they deserve it too. So perhaps self-titling this album is the beginning of a new era for the band. Regardless of whether this actually happens or not, it doesn’t matter. This track is great, and I’ll be picking up their new album on release.

Birds of Tokyo have also announced an up-coming tour. It’s going to be their “every album tour”, and will showcase their new material alongside their classics. The band are now “bigger, bolder, more refined and more fearless”. And it certainly looks like they’re planning one hell of a special tour.

Dates:

September 22, 2010 – Adelaide, SA

September 24, 2010 – Brisbane, QLD

September 26, 2010 – Hobart, TAS

September 30, 2010 – Sydney, NSW

October 01, 2010 – Melbourne, VIC

October 02, 2010 – Fremantle, WA

VIDEO: Birds of Tokyo – “Heard It Through The Grapevine”

I don’t normally post covers, in fact I think this is probably the first post I’ve done for a cover. But this is just too amazing to not share.

First recorded by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, and subsequently many many other artists and bands, "Heard It Through The Grapevine" was covered by (2 members of) Birds of Tokyo a while back for triple j’s Like A Version. Ian Kenny’s voice is outstanding, as it usually is in most of his work, and it somehow suits this delicate acoustic cover as well as it suits Karnivool’s head-banging progressive rock. Adam Spark’s finger-picking weaves into Kenny’s vocal melodies creating something very special indeed.

I know it’s only a cover, but I can’t get enough of it. This is just beautiful.

Score: 8/10