VIDEO: The Falls – “Home”

The Falls

I am actually really impressed with The Falls. In a world where I’ve become increasingly tired of half-inspired, dull, cookie-cutter folk acts, they’ve come right out of the blue to nail this one – and it’ll be a disappointment if it doesn’t explode and get them what they deserve! It’s a wonderful single, with all of the right hooks and harmonies. Their debut EP is going to be something to watch out for!

Be warned though: the video creates a rather unnerving contrast between the sweet melodies and the dark imagery. Listening without the visuals is an entirely different experience.

Update: Don’t forget to grab a free download from their triple j Unearthed page!

Photo via The Falls’ Facebook page.

LIVE: Bon Iver, live at the Sydney Opera House, Sydney (11-03-12)

Bon Iver

As Bon Iver took to the stage, they were welcomed with rapturous applause – and deservedly so. For Emma, Forever Ago won across an initial horde of devoted fans, and their latest album, Bon Iver, Bon Iver, was received incredibly well – so much so that it won the band a Grammy. Bon Iver have gone from strength to strength, and the excitement in the air was palpable.

The band took no time in launching into the appropriate opener of “Perth”. The first notes rang sharply throughout the hall, and to be honest – it felt a bit strange. After being so accustomed to the softer nuances of these tracks on record, to hear them explode forth and completely fill the Opera House was something else entirely.

But – apart from the rare moment where it seemed slightly too loud – it worked. Really well.

The nine musicians on stage changed instruments on a regular basis, but none of them ever faltered or missed a step. Saxophones, violins, horns and even a trombone were all present, all contributing to the musical landscape that formed over the night. I was sceptical about needing two drum kits at first, but even they proved their worth, providing a powerful intensity when needed (not to mention those jaw-dropping off-beats!). Having so many people on stage could have gone badly for Bon Iver, but the expansive majesty that came with it paid off.

However one of the most impressive instruments was one of the most natural. Justin Vernon’s voice is a thing to behold. What really stands out is the emotive force behind it, that can shift everything in a single moment. Lines like “Oh and we done it, because it’s right,” from the achingly beautiful “Wash.” took on an entirely new life, being forced out of Vernon’s mouth in the most uncontrollably cathartic way possible. His falsetto was pristine and rang out, and to say we were in awe would’ve been an understatement.

Bon Iver

Midway through the set, a seat was brought out for Vernon, and a crew member adjusted his mic. “These guys put my underwear on in the morning too,” he joked, before beginning what was arguably one of the most anticipated songs of the night – “Skinny Love”.

I was concerned that the frail, tender nature of the song might be crushed under the weight of nine musicians. But hearing the band bellow “my, my, my” in unison with Vernon was one of the most warming and memorable moments of the night. It almost felt as if they took on our role as the audience – for if this were a festival set, there’s no doubt that each and every one of us would have been singing along. But “Skinny Love” wasn’t the only song to have noticeable differences.

A mighty saxophone solo from Colin Stetson segued into the beginning of “Blood Bank”, which took on a much more direct and assertive approach. The slow-burning, delicate love song from the EP of the same name was transformed into a stronger and much more driven piece.

Credit must be given to the band for managing to adapt so many songs, some ever so slightly, to a new environment. However that’s not to say that they’ve lost their initial charm. Those of you that fell in love with the alluring subtleties of For Emma, Forever Ago will still find that connection live, just in slightly different places. Dynamically the band know exactly when to draw back, and when to burst forth, and it’s this that allows everything to fall into place.

After performing works from across their three main releases (“Wash.” and a solo version of “re: Stacks” being definite highlights), Vernon asked the crowd to join him during the final song of the night – and while it seemed odd to have to request participation in a moment like this, it felt necessary at a venue like the Opera House. The audience seemed to have far too much reverence – for fellow concert-goers, for the venue, and for Bon Iver – to spontaneously sing at the top of their lungs (although it didn’t stop some from holding up their phones for long periods). Maybe that’s why their efforts sounded so reluctant. Nevertheless, “The Wolves (Act I and II)” sounded magnificent, with the crowd repeating “What might’ve been lost” over a monumental finish.

Everyone was quick to stand as all nine musicians lined the stage, and applause filled the hall. Collectively, the crowd’s response seemed not only thankful for the amazing set we’d just witnessed, but also demanding of more. My generation has grown up to expect encores – not to be pleasantly surprised by them – and there was no way Bon Iver were getting away without one.

After some time, the band returned and the applause instantly subsided as people sat down again in anticipation. They then launched into “Creature Fear”, which built up to an immense wall of dissonant sound. Much like “The Wolves (Act I and II)”, the huge release of energy felt like an apt place to end the set – but we were in for one last song. Thanking the crowd once more, the band began to close the night with the slow dusty brass of “For Emma” –  again, earning a standing ovation.

It’s more important than ever that I now refer to Bon Iver collectively as a band. No longer is it just Vernon at the helm of this ship. The addition of other musicians added another element to their second album, it certainly adds a welcome element to their live show – and I’d like to think that it’s a form of the band that will stick around, because it sounded nothing short of astounding.

To witness such intrinsically beautiful music performed in the Opera House was a privilege. And while Bon Iver may not believe that they’re magnificent – everyone at the Opera House on Sunday most certainly does.

~

Check out some of the great photos taken by Music at the House over here on Facebook.


REVIEW: Georgia Fair – “All Through Winter”

Georgia Fair - All Through Winter

It’s been a while coming for Jordan Wilson and Ben Riley – the duo also known as Georgia Fair. Their debut album – All Through Winter – is due for release on the 21st of October, and it’s fair to say there’s been a few people waiting on it. Touring with The Panics, the band have been showing off their new work recently, but how does it sound recorded?

Starting with the slow-burning “Times Fly”, the album kicks off with a strong start. “Blind” brings out intense, rolling drums, and “Where You Been?” is the perfect first single from the release.

Georgia Fair weave these beautiful vocal harmonies into folk music that goes beyond the whole cutesy idea of finger-picking some guitar chords. With lush strings and deep guitar, the songs sound mature and layered. It’s a much fuller sound, and it’s all the more interesting because of it. The best bit: the production is beautiful and sounds just as it should.

What it lacks for the most part, are stand out hooks. All Through Winter is rewarding when it has your attention, but rarely does the album grab it naturally. “Blind” and “Simple Man” both seem to take it up a notch, and so do a couple of others, but nothing really jumps out. Aside from that, too often do Wilson’s vocals feel under-stated. He has an amazing voice, and when really pushed out during some choruses, it explodes, sounding stronger than ever. Unfortunately, too often it feels restrained.

Maybe this album isn’t for me. When cherry-picking tracks for analysis, everything positive I’ve said stands – beautiful folk harmonies alongside a matured sense of song-writing – and it’s consistent in this sense too! But as an album, the release can’t sustain my interest. I feel I’d enjoy it more as an EP. Chances are, that’s more a reflection on my personal tastes.

Whether or not you listen to this as an album or not, if you dig great melodic folk music, you should have a listen. Georgia Fair have made leaps and bounds in many ways, and while I don’t think they’ve found their feet just yet, they’re getting pretty damn close.

VIDEO: Slow Club – “Where I’m Waking”

Slow Club

It’s a sad day when I have to send you to NME – one of the only modern publications still reporting on everything the Gallagher brother’s say (who, by the way, no one gives a damn about) – but alas, it is they who are premiering the new video from talented English duo Slow Club.

The video isn’t amazing and doesn’t quite have the same charm as “It Doesn’t Have To Be Beautiful“, but the song sees their writing heading in a new, albeit interesting and full direction – they still have those charismatic vocal hooks, but their sound seems less quaint and withdrawn this time (not that it was a bad thing on their debut album though!). It’ll be interesting to see what kind of sound Paradise, their sophomore release, has. It’s out on September the 12th.

Check out the video over here.

TOUR: The Falls on Wednesdays at the Hotel Hollywood!

In a musical landscape where venues unfortunately seem to be closing down left, right, and centre, it’s a great feeling to know that there are still initiatives and events out there that are promoting good new artists.

One such event is about to start at the Hotel Hollywood on Wednesday nights. Hosted by Doris Goddard who owns the hotel, it’ll bring folk artists The Falls (check out some of their stuff here!) in as the artists in residence. Their swooning, delicate acoustic tunes sound great, especially for stuff recorded on a 4-track. The Hotel Hollywood has seen artists like Fergus Brown and Georgia Fair pop by before, and seems to be an important, emerging venue for the acoustic/folk scene. The Falls will also be joined by some special guests each Wednesday for the next few weeks.

See the full details below, and get along to it (it’s free!).

WHAT: The Falls + special guests each week
WHERE: The Hotel Hollywood
2 Foster Street, Surry Hills, Sydney
WHEN: Wednesday nights – 8pm – FREE ENTRY!

WED 30th MARCH: THE FALLS + HELLO VERA + ACHOO! BLESS YOU
WED 6th APRIL: THE FALLS + PAUL AIDEN (UK) + ATLAS B SALVESEN
WED 13th APRIL: THE FALLS + JACK CARTY + ANDREW MORRIS (QLD)
WED 20th APRIL: THE FALLS + THE GREEN MOHAIR SUITS + DANNY WIDDICOMBE (QLD)

REVIEW: Timothy Nelson & The Infidels – “Sleeping Alone”

It’s undeniable that Timothy Nelson & The Infidels have a sound influenced by country music. There. I said it and it’s out in the open. Now get all of those possible misconceptions out of your system, because these guys are a bit different.

Mixing folk, country, and rock, Timothy Nelson & The Infidels have been building up their fan base in Western Australia for a couple of years now. Timothy has two WAMi awards under his belt already, one of which is for “Sleeping Alone”. These guys are a solid act.

But what about the song? Well, “Sleeping Alone” begins slowly with a bendy lead guitar line over a softly strummed acoustic, but once the full band kicks in, all sorts of musical textures come into play. For a song over 6 minutes long, has its highs and lows, and moves between them effortlessly.

For a group so influenced by a genre I generally disregard, Timothy Nelson & The Infidels sure know their stuff. Lyrically strong and different from your average folk band, they won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. But with the guts to write they kind of music they want to, and with a debut LP on the way, this is gonna be a band to watch out for.

Verdict: Positive.

Listen to some of their stuff on their Myspace page.

Also; grab what I understand will soon be an exclusive download of “Sleeping Alone”, HERE.

VIDEO: Goodnight Owl – “Maps & Compasses”

The brilliant Aussie electro-folksters Goodnight Owl have premiered a new video clip! It’s for their single “Maps & Compasses”, from their debut self-titled EP. For a first clip, it’s pretty well made, and should be commended for being interesting and inventive. Check it out. If you’ve never heard of these guys you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Grab some of their tracks for free here and give them a listen while you’re at it. I feel these guys have the potential to move onto big things.

BRAND NEW: Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – "Home"

"Home" has a certain country/folk vibe about it (though not the stereotypical kind of sound you’d expect). It really sounds like the musicians involved are really having fun. It’s got a carefree vibe about it.

Trumpets flourish between verses and build the song up, and the chorus is simplistic and catchy, with the lines "Ah home, let me go home. Home is wherever I’m with you" holding a certain bare-all truthfulness about them.

Most of all, "Home" is refreshing. It’s something you can sing along, something you can relate to, and it’s not what you expect. In a good way.

Score: 8/10

You can grab a free download from RCRD LBL here.