REVIEW: Elgen and Johnny Utah – “The Welcoming Party” EP

Do you like your Aussie hip-hop? If you do, this will be perfect for you! If not, you should listen anyway, because these guys are pretty damn good. Elgen and Johnny Utah are two Australian brothers who make hip-hop together. Elgen produces the music and Johnny raps, and it’s the combination of these talents in “The Welcoming Party” that landed them a spot at the Maitland Groovin’ The Moo festival, courtesy of triple j Unearthed.

If I’m bluntly honest, I never used to listen to hip-hop at all. Years ago, I had the misguided and incorrect view (cultivated by living in a town where most people get their musical education from mainstream commercial radio) that all rap was boring, repetitive, lyrically shallow, and arrogant. Luckily these days I know exactly how wrong I was.

Despite my realisation, I can’t say I constantly listen to hip-hop now either. It’s not one of my largest influences. But being a fan of triple j, I’ve been exposed to some great hip-hop that makes use of interesting and catchy instrumentation which I absolutely love (Hilltop Hoods, Bliss N Eso, etc.). So when I first heard “When The Rain Hits” by Elgen and Johnny Utah, I was excited to say the least. On top of that I was stunned that they were unsigned.

Lyrically, Elgen and Johnny Utah don’t sing about “how dope their bitches are”, or about how rich they are, or about how they can afford 3 private jets. It’s quite refreshing, and it sure beats the stagnant, ego-inflating material some other artists produce.

“Matchbox”’s chorus contrasts brilliantly with the rapping verses, and it’s this contrast that helps set this song apart. The sampled riff is a bit out-there too, but it’s got personality and it’s catchy.

“It’s A Little Bit Funny (But That’s How I’m Living)” begins with a great quote from The Shining, but unfortunately it’s let down a little by the over-use of a laughing sample. It’s not a bad effect, but it’s used to the extent that it becomes mildy irritating. This is the only real complaint I can procure, to be completely honest.

“When The Rain Hits” is the standout track, and it’s the simplicity of the piano chords throughout which help emphasise the rapping. The chorus shines, it’s brilliant and catchy, and it almost feels like something you could get up and dance to. It’s definitely something you want to sing along with, and I can already see this song going off at festivals and gigs.

The performace put on by Steve Hollins, who features on a couple of tracks (“Matchbox” and “When The Rain Hits”), should really be commended. As should the work from other guests, including Phatchance, Drake MC, and Doctor Freud. Admittedly, I hadn’t heard of these guys prior to listening to “The Welcoming Party”, but their contributions to the EP really help make it what it is.

It’s a solid release, and “Close The Door” really completes it. The off-beat drums are great, and like most of their other songs, the samples really make the songs more appealing and interesting. It’s a fitting closer, and lyrically it’s emotionally moving:

If you listen, please take notice that I’m not upset / There’s not a thing we could’ve done and I have no regrets / I won’t be left to wonder, wait for change and false hope / When it rains, it pours, I keep the door closed. I’ll keep that door closed.

These songs feel like they really showcase Elgen and Johnny Utah’s talents. And if this is the base that they build upon in the future, we can safely look forward to what is hopefully an amazing debut album.

Verdict: Positive.

Grab some of their tracks for free here. Do it.

BRAND NEW: Phoenix – “Live In Sydney” Free EP!

Phoenix. You know, that French band. The one that sings those insanely infectious synthy pop songs. Yeah, them. Well, they decided that they’d go and do something really nice for us all. They’ve released a live EP featuring songs from “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix” that they played for us Australians in Sydney. I didn’t catch any of their gigs over here, but I hear they’re pretty good live.

I haven’t grabbed the EP yet, but I will be very soon. Word is the live version of “Love Like A Sunset” is brilliant.

The track-listing is as follows:

1. Lisztomania
2. Lasso
3. Fences
4. Girlfriend
5. Armistice
6. Love Like A Sunset
7. Rome
8. 1901

Grab a free download here. (Once their servers are back up that is, it looks like they’re under a bit of strain at the moment. Understandably.)

REVIEW: MiniBoone – "Big Changes"

MiniBoone’s "Big Changes" opens up with "Summer Jam". Building up from a thumping bass-line and layered backing-vocals, the drums tap along before the song hits a high with the line "Tell me why I feel the way I do", introducing a light-hearted xylophone-like melody. It’s a pretty good opener.

But the second track. I mean, wow. Just wow. "Cool Kids Cut Out of the Heart Itself" has to be the most fun I’ve had listening to something for quite a while. It just bounces. It’s lively. Admittedly I’m a massive sucker for the kind of fun drum beats and light guitar riffs that feature in it, but the song has so much more to offer. Clocking in at just under 2 minutes, combined with some "Hey!"’s and "Shoo-doop-doo"’s, this is a brilliant track. It’s excellent.

Another great stand out is "Devil in Your Eyes". There’s another nice progression, with notably infectious verse lines. It’s just catchy, and is a bit more of a longer track than "Cool Kids…". Though they do both work very well close to each other.

Though they don’t have the same instant effect as the earlier tracks, "I Need" and "Funny Money" aren’t bad at all, with the latter being an excellent closer for "Big Changes". All in all it’s a catchy and fun EP.

This is the tough bit though. I really want to describe MiniBoone in a way people can relate to them, without attaching a negative stigma to them. I’d say indie-rock, but that’s too broad a term. They’re something a bit more original and musical. Something that you, yes even you, can even appreciate and like. Download "Devil in Your Eyes". Listen to it. Think "Hey, I don’t have to pretend to be so elitist anymore. I can listen to this stuff that has guitars and sounds kinda cool, maybe even poppy. I don’t have listen to obscure noise or experimental hipster music (though there’s nothing wrong with that if you’re into that stuff). I’m cool with this music too." Do it. It will make you feel happy and good inside. That’s the best way I can describe them. Anything else would just seem trivial and mediocre, because they have to be heard to be differentiated from the flock of mind-numbingly-boring bands out there.

I think I’m starting to understand why they titled it "Big Changes". I can see this EP making some fairly big changes and advances for the band as a whole if they keep it up. It’s a solid set of tracks, and I’m sure with some touring and promotion of it, it’ll get the reception it deserves.

Score: 7/10

Grab a free download of "Devil in Your Eyes" here.

You can check out a blog here, and visit their Bandcamp page here. You can very conveniently stream the whole EP there and buy it if you’re so inclined.

REVIEW: Goodnight Owl – "Goodnight Owl [EP]"

Goodnight Owl manage to develop a balance between soft and melodic acoustic sounds – not unlike those of a modern indie folk band – rolling off-beat drums, and lofty vocals, that despite being an odd combination, elevate them up there among bands paving the way by creating different, yet good music.

Based in Melbourne, Australia, Goodnight Owl recorded their debut EP in late 2008. Eddie Alexander deferred from university in 2008, and began work on Goodnight Owl. Shortly afterward, he was joined by Joe Walker and Bella Walker, all three of whom grew up in Alice Springs.

The delicate nature of Goodnight Owl’s music is one of its defining qualities. The piano and various background effects really contribute to the texture of the songs, the layered melodies complimenting the guitar lines very well. The drums move the songs along at a pace that don’t leave them dwindling slowly behind the interest of the audience. With the interesting rhythms that change with different fills and breaks, Goodnight Owl manage to hold your attention whilst not being in your face and out there, like so much other music.

In particular, Eddie’s vocals blend into the melodies seamlessly. They’re very distinct in the way that they aren’t being shown off and over-done, they manage to fit into the mood of the whole EP. It’s true that the song’s produced here are greater than the sum of their parts. They manage to come together to form a unique combination of different sounds and textures.

Maps & Compasses is a great opener for the debut, and for a conclusion with such emotional vocals and a raw feel to it, Stale Bread does not disappoint. The 5 tracks on the EP really all fit together, and they don’t fade from your memory with repetition, like so many short EP’s do. This is a band with a distinct style, but one which doesn’t repeat itself into mediocrity.

As many people will point out, you have to work with what you have. Without the backing of a major label, Goodnight Owl have managed to create an EP that shows a developed, interesting sound, that only grows on you as you listen. With weaving melodies and catchy drum lines, interspersed between the delicate additions from the piano, this EP is not only creative, but great to listen to as well. Here’s to a full-blown LP in the future!

Score: 8/10

Having blogged about Goodnight Owl before, it was great to get an offer to review their debut EP. I’d just like to give a shout out to the band and Sabrina Robertson for giving me the opportunity to do so.

triple j Unearthed page. Download their stuff here.

MySpace page.

REVIEW: You, Me, and Everyone We Know – double review

Okay, so I like pop-rock/pop-punk music in the same style as Fall Out Boy (some of their stuff anyway), Taking Back Sunday, etc. Phew, it’s out there. I don’t care, I think simple power-chords are catchy.

Anyway, here’s a quick review of two EP’s by a band I found on Last FM and another site one day, before I go off to do my Extension English assessment.

You, Me, and Everyone We Know are pretty catchy, and some of their songs use some pretty stock-standard techniques and sound similar to other stuff I’ve heard. There’s a few differences however.

1. Both discs I’m reviewing actually have some varying styles of songs, they aren’t all the same. They manage to develop nice hooks and create songs with different vibes.

2. Both of these discs have been released for free. Which is very nice of the band.

I highly recommend checking out these guys. Seriously. Even if you hate bands like Fall Out Boy because they’re the idols of screaming scene kids everywhere, these guys have a relatively small following, and they sound just as good, if not better. And considering it’s all for free, what’ve you got to lose?

Download "Party For The Grown And Sexy" here.

Download "So Young, So Insane" here. Scroll down a bit for the Mediafire link.

Overall score for both EP’s: 7/10

NEWS: Radiohead – No new album?

Slightly misleading post title. It’s not all doom and gloom, don’t fret.

In an interview with The Believer magazine, Thom has said:

“None of us want to go into that creative hoo-ha of a long-play record again. Not straight off.”

“I mean, obviously, there’s still something great about the album. It’s just, for us, right now, we need to get away from it a bit.”

All hints are pointing towards Radiohead releasing a few EP’s in the future instead of LP’s. Probably over a short period of time. Hopefully anyway. But they are in the studio now, and have been recording, so if there’s no LP’s, chances are they’re gonna work on some EP’s.

But, priorities in order, let’s just hope they’re good. Though I have absolutely no reason what-so-ever to think anything otherwise.

I can’t wait to hear some new material.

REVIEW: Midnite Theory – “Never Sleep Till Sunrise” EP

I’d been writing on this blog for approximately a week and got an offer to review a free EP. It was awesome. A big kudos to Midnite Theory for allowing me to do a review and sending me the EP. I really appreciate it, you guys are awesome.

I’m gonna put something out there first before I start. I don’t listen to much hip-hop. I don’t mind it, and I hear some really good stuff from time to time, but it isn’t really for me. Luckily, Midnite Theory are more than just hip-hop. Much more. Formed in Westlake, California, Midnite Theory are a melodically minded band that use more instruments than your average hip-hop group to achieve a unique and natural sound. With less emphasis on computer created sounds than other groups, they’re a refreshing look at the whole hip-hop genre. With influences ranging from Bob Dylan, soul and jazz, to rock, hardcore, and indie, Midnite Theory manage to pull off what others would consider an elaborate and complex combination, and they pull it off well. “Never Sleep Till Sunrise” is their new EP, which is out on iTunes now.

1. That’s Love – This track begins with a catchy chord progression and subtle soul-influenced backing vocals, before the rapping comes in. The pulled back initial melody sounds good, before it comes back in full with a second guitar, whose fast riffs overlay on top of it quite nicely. The contrast between the rapping and the traditional singing, both in style and speed, as with most of their songs, creates a nice effect that keeps the vocals interesting and it keeps your attention. “That’s Love” is a strong and catchy opener for the EP, and is a stellar example of their sound and style.

2. Angel on SunsetThis song creates a notable effect with it’s breaks between guitars in what I think is the pre-chorus. This combined with the solid rapping creates an intense section of the song that sounds rhythmically strong. The chorus’ vocals are smooth and create that aforementioned contrasting effect. It’s great to hear some vocals that not only create a contrast, but are brilliant in their own right with their great range and smooth tone changes.

3. Caught Up This short, catchy song implements some talented guitar rhythms that are accompanied by some simple keyboards. The lyrics are well thought out and contain a certain universality with their themes of love. This is further emphasised through the shared male and female vocal parts, which give the song two perspectives and broaden the immediate audience. This song is short, but it doesn’t need to be any longer. It delivers the emotions without going overboard (and so many bands fall into that trap), and should be commended for it.

4. P.T.SHeavier guitars and a different style of keyboard playing in this, mixed with the thumpier drums create a different, rhythmically simpler and stronger sound. This helps support the rapping in the verse, and it sounds good. The techno-ish sounds the keyboard creates give off a slightly strange, but not bad sounding vibe. The section with the guitar’s less heavy part and picking also bring out the strongness of the rapping like other songs. This song is different from the other tracks on the EP, but it’s good to have variation and this shows exactly what Midnite Theory can do with their range of influences and talent.

5. Still Green (Piano Song)The intial guitar melody over the top of the piano sets up the rapping in the introduction, with the plain piano leaving the listener to focus on the well written lyrics and vocals. The simple chords and effects used in the verse, with the backing vocals sound great, before the guitar comes in with another fill. When the drums come in, it builds up a bit but doesn’t lose it’s pace or feeling. This is one of the standout songs on the EP. Not saying the rest of the EP is bad in anyway what-so-ever, no way. But it just really catches you as soon as you hear it and refuses to let go. It’s excellent.

6. Just Met (Love Song)The guitar in this song is particularly good with it’s melodical progression. I just think it suits the song really well. The lyrics have again (like “Caught Up”) broad themes that apply and can be understood by pretty much everyone. Again the dual vocals and the separate parts sound really good and are definetely a strong point of Midnite Theory. This is hip-hop that isn’t boring and repetitive, like so much else I’ve heard.

7. Something Draws Me To YouComing in with a cool effect and some simple strumming, an awesome guitar line is introduced and you can’t help but tap your foot along with it. The vocals fit in with it and work together, and the chorus is a simple repetition of the title of the song with some backing vocals. It seems like it loses a bit of pace here, but it picks it up again with the verses and it’s barely noticeable.

8. GoneStarting off with a another good guitar line, that could easily translate into a song that isn’t hip-hop based, “Gone” builds up to a chorus that maybe could have benefited from a more balanced out part between vocalists to make it seem stronger. The verses sound good, and the bridge gives it a little bit of space for it to tone down and the beat to come through. A good closer for the EP.

Final Impression – Overall, this is an incredibly strong EP from these guys. It’s not the kind of EP made of b-sides and rarities, these tracks could easily appear on a full blown album and not seem out of place. The rapping is strong and the lyrics tell both intricate and simple emotional stories that latch on and keep your attention. The backing vocals and soulful singing sound great, and the juxtaposition with this and the rapping makes the songs more interesting. Using great chord progressions and killer guitar hooks to light sections up, “Never Sleep Till Sunrise” is filled with strong songs from start to finish. The amount of noticable influences in a mere 8 tracks is incredible. I think Midnite Theory are going to be one of those bands to watch, whether you’re a hip-hop fan or not. They’re talented enough to distinguish themselves from their rivals, and if they keep writing songs like this (and even better!), they will go a long way.

Midnite Theory have been kind enough to allow me to put up one of the songs from the EP up for a free download, as a taste of “Never Sleep Till Sunrise”. You can grab a free download of “Something Draws Me To You” by clicking on this link here.

You can also check out some of their other music, and find out more about them at their MySpace page.

If you like what you hear, go and support the band by buying “Never Sleep Till Sunrise” from iTunes. It’s well worth it.