REVIEW: Tim Fitz – “Infinite Space” EP

I don’t have many concrete facts to give you regarding this EP. It arrived in my inbox without a press release, and with only the most basic of information: Tim is 21, lives in Sydney, and wrote, played, and produced the whole release at his home. If you ask me, that’s quite an impressive feat giving how good it sounds! As an aside, let this be an important lesson to any PR types: long, convoluted press releases full of spin will not make me want to listen to your music more. I’m more likely to listen to your music if it’s good. Tim Fitz is proof of this.

The first track “Disposable Youth” opens the EP magnificently: tinkling pianos and thundering drums give way to a tremendous crescendo as the song builds. If you try one song, “Disposable Youth” should be it. The percussion in “Helplessman” sounds so glitchy and unpredictable, and the acoustic ditty “Box” feels so laid-back. This is a diverse EP, and it’s all the better for it.

All up, Infinite Space is quite short, clocking in at just over 12 minutes, but this is one of its best attributes because it just works. The songs don’t drag on, and the timing feels right. The release moves and adjusts so seamlessly, changing stylistically on a regular basis. After listening, you’ll notice it’s incredibly difficult to pin-point any one sound or pigeon-hole the release. It’s also refreshing to have such a short and diverse collection of songs, and it’s amazing how much is crammed into such a small time frame. Tim’s voice sounds great, and he could easily escalate out of the whole “bedroom musician” niche. However, an artist’s live show can be a large part of that transition, and I’ve got no idea where that stands right now.

Regardless, this is some great music from someone who does everything themself. It’s a brilliant testament to the things musicians can create without a label backing them. If you have a passion for it, if you want it badly enough, then you can do it: Tim Fitz is living proof of this. Infinite Space is a great release, and trust me – you have time to listen to it and to give it a go. Enjoy it and be inspired by it, because that’s what it will do.

Grab Infinite Space EP over here from Bandcamp (you can name your own price).

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REVIEW: Guineafowl – “Hello Anxiety” EP

Guineafowl hail from Sydney, and their well crafted indie pop manages to walk a fine line. That fine line between appealing to an alternative audience looking for something new, and creating songs laden with catchy pop hooks. They do both extremely well.

Hello Anxiety, Guineafowl’s debut EP, is a refreshing breath of musical air in the face of what seems like an overabundance of bands who do indie pop the boring way. Throw in a few synth hooks, an off-beat pound, and away we go! Well, Guineafowl gladly take a different path. Though with their fair share of amazing beats and hooks, Guineafowl layer over winding guitar leads and soaring vocals. The bass groove and keyboard riff in “Little Fingers” is tremendous in size and effect. It seems that overall, every track has such a full and rich sound, full of interesting nuances and background noises that add to the experience, and the band should be commended for it. Amidst the many instruments and sounds, Guineafowl’s music obtains a personality. Something that is theirs, and seems to be theirs alone – something new.

To be honest, there isn’t much I can pick apart here. It’s a great offering from a relatively new band. If anything, I find the chorus of “My Lonely Arms” to not quite fit. It isn’t that I find swearing in music off-putting, but it just doesn’t seem to flow. Other than that, Guineafowl have put a very solid effort into the release.

One of the problems with EPs is that they often leave us wanting more – which is both a curse, and an indication of a band’s worth. Hello Anxiety, Guineafowl’s debut EP has more than enough quality, but by the time it finishes you can’t help but wish there was a bit more. Guineafowl will no doubt take flight (pun completely intentional) and gain the recognition they deserve as one of Australia’s biggest upcoming bands. How long that will take is anyone’s guess – but the fact remains that these guys have something special, new, and exciting, that sets them apart. I’m excited. You should be too.

LIVE: Guineafowl, live at Transit Bar, Canberra (03-03-11)

[Couldn’t get a photo I took on the night off my iPhone – it was playing up. So I’m using this press shot instead. It’s probably much cooler anyway.]

On Thursday night, after much adventuring (I found Canberra’s Casino!), I found my way to Transit Bar with the help of my iPhone and some kind bouncers. Walking down some stairs, I handed over $12 to the nice lady at the door – Guineafowl would be more than worth it, I thought. I was right.

I met a friend there, and we then proceeded to make our way into the crowd. We weren’t up the very front, but the stage was small, and from past experience I think the sound would have been better where we were anyway. It wasn’t crowded in an uncomfortable way, but it was nicely packed. There was a solid reception for the band on the third last stop of their tour, and rightly so! Although not incredibly well known in the independent scene (yet!), Guineafowl have begun to earn their metaphorical indie chops with national airplay on triple j and by getting nominations for 2 SMAC Awards. The SMAC Awards are run by FBi Radio in recognition of Sydney’s artists and cultural events, and Guineafowl took out Best Sydney Song for “In Our Circles”!

At about 10.30 the band hit the stage, and they burst through about nine songs over the night. Which is quite a respectable effort for a band launching their debut EP (Hello Anxiety), which only has five tracks itself. Some of the newer unrecorded material sounds absolutely brilliant, especially the song they closed with (can’t remember it’s name unfortunately). It was good to see some of the initially unenthusiastic watchers participate in “Botanist”, the penultimate song in the set, because hand-clapping has never sounded so good – or felt so fun. “In Our Circles” sounded great, and all throughout the night the band were jumping up and down without sacrificing any musicianship (a skill some bands are lacking in). Unfortunately Sam (lead vocals) broke a couple of guitar strings during the first song, but the band recovered – in fact I don’t think they faltered at all – and it was as if nothing had happened.

The band played a solid set, and I think they’ll have definitely won some new fans over. Keep an eye out – if Guineafowl tour near you, rush out and see them.

All in all it was a great night. We got to chat with a few of the band members, and they were really nice. I picked up their EP and a t-shirt, so look out for a review in the near future (of the EP obviously, but the shirt is quite nice too).

If you’re quick you can grab “In Our Circles” for free here!

REVIEW: Further Earth – “Kingdom”

Further Earth have leapt out of the far western city of Perth, and they’ve certainly leapt with more force and confidence than you’d expect! Considering they’re such a young band, their balanced sound may come as a surprise. However it’s an interesting result of their musical history – each band member has years of experience playing with at least one other member. This is a group of musicians who know how things work, and are at the beginning of something that sounds very special.

The first thing I noticed while scanning the press release for Kingdom, Further Earth’s debut EP, was that it was produced by none other than Forrester Savell. For those of you unfamiliar with his work, Savell has worked alongside Birds of Tokyo, Dead Letter Circus, and Karnivool. His work with these bands has made it clear just how valuable he is to the Australian rock scene, and Kingdom serves to reinforce that even more.

Further Earth merge influences, throwing in a dabble of prog-rock, to the softer opening strums of the title track, to the racing pace of “Fierce Euphoria”, but the way that everything seems to mesh together so well really defines these guys from the get go. Rarely do you hear a debut EP with such consistency and flow. Rarely do you hear a band that can develop such an expansive sound so quickly, with so many individual and truly interesting layers.

Each instrument has a life of its own, yet fits in so well to create the whole. It is bands that can do this, that eventually develop a strong fan-base in the rock scene, especially in Australia. Karnivool and Dead Letter Circus are testaments to that fact. Kingdom has a huge amount of potential to get Further Earth very far, and with a few tours planned this year, I’ll wager that Further Earth will be attracting quite a bit more attention very soon. Grab Kingdom and see what it’s all about, and keep your ears open for a tour announcement!

At the very least, check their triple j Unearthed page and grab some free tracks.

TOUR/NEWS: Guineafowl tour and EP announcement!

That’s right! One of my favourite Aussie indie acts Guineafowl are touring in support of their Hello Anxiety EP, and you better be damn excited.

Guineafowl first amazed me with the hand-clapping and plucked subtleties of “Botanist”, and since then have gone on to awe me with the delays and pounding beats of “In Our Circles”. This is a band that I’ve been wanting more from for a long time, and finally it’s going to happen!

On the 11th of February, Guineafowl’s debut EP Hello Anxiety is going to be available through the lovely folks at Dew Process. Not only that, but a week later they will begin their tour in support of the EP, and if you’re lucky enough they’ll pass you by. It’s only $10-$12 entry! If you’re near any of these dates, be sure to check them out.

Guineafowl will hit it big, you watch.

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: Coptic Soldier & Miriam Waks – “The Sound of Wings”

The pairing of Coptic Soldier’s rapping and Miriam Waks’ soulful vocals proves to be an effective combination on their debut EP. Coptic has shown he’s got something special after touring with artists like Bliss n Eso, The Herd, and even De La Soul.  Miriam has been nominated for the 2007 ACE Awards, the 2008 MO Awards, and has featured on Spit Syndicate’s “Towards the Light” (an ARIA nominated album). These two artists clearly have talent. So how does it turn out when they work together on “The Sound of Wings”?

Let me begin by saying that it’s very interesting, and I mean that in the best way possible. There are plenty of hip-hop artists out there who have used great singers like Miriam as backing vocalists before, but the way that they’re both balanced out evenly across the release works excellently, and is a testament to both of the duo’s skills. Not only vocally, but in an instrumental sense “The Sound of Wings” proves to be something a bit different. Drawing influences from various cultures, it brings in bright brass sections, subtle plucked-string riffs, and traditional hip-hop beats.

Opener “Why Suffer” is a perfect starting track for the EP. It’s up-beat vibe and the tension built up towards the end really make this track work well. While it doesn’t feel like any other track really returns to this kind of, almost “party” (for want of a better term) feeling, which is a slight disappointment, the rest of the EP is fairly solid.

Title track “The Sound of Wings” provides a brilliant bridge to the last few songs. It feels relaxing, and though it’s short, I feel like it’s a really important part of the EP. To me it felt like it was what the whole EP was built upon, in a thematic sense. Despite being so drastically different, “The Sound of Wings” is captivating and feels integral to the release.

Lyrically, some lines just don’t feel right. They either feel clichéd or forced. This is a rare occurrence, but when it happens it’s noticeable. For example: “I can feel it coming in the air tonight” from closer “In The Air Tonight”. Unfortunately lines like this make it difficult to listen to a song and hear it as it should be heard – as the artist intended.

The extreme contrast between the two vocalists really adds some variation to the melodies, and it gives the duo more room to expand their style. Although Coptic’s rapping feels very laid-back and casual, at times I feel like it could benefit from a bit more of a bite. The vocals though are generally quite good, but often the songs feel like they wander along and just don’t go anywhere. Sometimes there’s just nothing to grab my attention.

Despite all of the EP’s highs and lows, I feel like Coptic and Miriam have produced a solid debut EP. Musically, the cohesion between the different genres and cultural styles sounds effortless, providing enough contrast to hold interest without creating friction. Lyrically they deal with subjects they feel strongly about, like alcohol and religion, and this heartfelt outpouring of emotion shows some sincerity and artistic integrity. I can’t help but feel there are areas for improvement, but clearly Coptic Soldier and Miriam Waks have a dynamic way of creating music together, and I’m sure in the future they’ll refine their style. Until then, “The Sound of Wings” aint bad at all.

Verdict: Positive.

Check out some of their work, with other artists, in my I Forget, Sorry! mixtape here.

Or grab a couple of free songs from their triple j Unearthed page here.