TOUR: The Panda Band

A short while ago, Perth’s bright indie rockers known as The Panda Band released their sophomore effort Charisma Weapon. An even shorter while ago, they announced a whole range of tour dates in support of their new album. I’m a bit slow on this announcement, but there’s still quite a few dates left. You can expect a full review of their live show up after I see them at ANU!

Until then, grab free single “The Fix” over here at their BandCamp page. It’s a poppy, fun little track, and it’s free so you can’t really go wrong.

Check out the remaining dates and venues below:

Wed 10th August – The Brass Monkey, Cronulla, NSW
Thu 11th August – The Vault, Windsor, NSW
Fri 12th August – Northern Star, Newcastle, NSW
Sat 13th August – The Gaelic Club, Sydney, NSW
Wed 17th August – ANU, Canberra, ACT
Thu 18th August – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne, VIC
Fri 19th August – Barwon Club, Geelong, VIC
Sat 20th August – Hotel Metro, Adelaide, SA
Fri 26th August – Rosemount Hotel, North Perth, WA
Fri 2nd September – Player’s Bar, Mandurah, WA

FEATURE: Michael Bublé drinks fire water

Most of you will have seen the video for Michael Bublé’s hit “Haven’t Met You Yet” (if you haven’t, take a quick look over here).

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed someone post a link to one of those funny lip reading videos. You know, the ones where people mute the audio and then talk over the video with different words? Yeah, those ones.

It was for Michael Bublé’s video, and it was extraordinary for a few reasons.

1. Not only was the video muted, but someone (or a group of people) had crafted an entirely new song over it.
2. Despite the nonsensical lyrics, the result was a truly brilliant pop song. And I mean brilliant.

Check it out.

The drop into each chorus is absolutely huge, and the brass section not only fits with the video, but provides a perfect hook for the bridge. To me it seems insane that a song like this can be written so well, sound so good, and fit the video so closely. At the end of the day, this is great pop song. Everything about it, bar the lyrics, scream “PLAY ME ON MAINSTREAM RADIO”, and the thing is, it sounds really good. It’s definitely got more flair and stronger melodies than most of the other pop songs I hear on the radio these days.

And to add icing to this already delicious cake, Bublé himself loves it. I’ve got much more respect for the guy – where other musicians would get angry and sue, he’s able to laugh at it and enjoy it.

INTERVIEW: Miami Horror

I recently got to catch up with Miami Horror, one of Australia’s biggest electro-pop bands around!

On The Tune: You guys are currently getting ready to head out on the Summersun Tour before you head off to Los Angeles. This must be a pretty exciting time for you guys. Why did you pick L.A.?

Miami Horror: Well it was between NY and LA, we felt LA was better because we like a little bit of space and having the ability to step out into nature if we need. The houses are bigger and we feel it’s the right atmosphere for creation.

OTT: I get the feeling these last shows over here seem to close an era, especially here in Australia. Are you guys going to tour Illumination extensively overseas now that it’s getting released there, or will it be straight into new material?

MH: The international tour is pretty comprehensive however we’ve already done America twice in the last year and are off to Europe in May and also September… So I think hopefully from July onwards we’ll have a lot of time off to start new material.

OTT: Will we see new tracks to move in a different direction to the stuff on Illumination? What can fans expect from new material?

MH: We haven’t really had the chance to think about direction yet, currently what we’re listening to is quite different to MH, so we need some time to work out how we can work in our new direction without loosing the MH sound that people would expect.

OTT: It definitely sounds like you guys are getting great reactions from overseas crowds to your current material. Where have you enjoyed playing the most? Any places that have absolutely wild crowds?

MH: Chile and Rio were probably our biggest most interesting crowds, it was a great feeling to sell out some pretty reasonable sized shows in the US as we weren’t really expecting it.

OTT: Lots of bands dream of playing South By South West over in Texas, you guys got to actually go over this year. How do you guys feel your shows went? Being one of the biggest showcases in the world was it a fairly hectic experience?

MH: SXSW is always pretty hectic, its hard work to find the good music because there’s just so much in general, all of our showcases were completely packed and went really well. Its a great opportunity to play to the industry and can bring many new opportunities.

OTT: Thanks for the chat, and congratulations on an incredibly successful 2010 guys! Good luck on the tour!

MH: Thanks!

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.

FEATURE: Pop is the new indie

Pop is the new indie.

[Note: For the sake of clarity, by “pop” I strictly mean music that is popular or known by a very large portion of regular music listeners. By “indie” I mean the broader alternative scene, otherwise largely ignored by mainstream stations.]

Not too long ago it seemed most independent bands either denounced all pop music as unoriginal, boring, and mass-marketed tripe, or were apathetic towards the topic. Which is why it’s interesting to notice a changing shift in attitudes towards commercial mainstream artists today.

The time old view by some musicians that all pop music is rubbish and biased is unreasonable. That said, I believe the majority of today’s popular music is over-sexualised, shallow, and largely uninventive – and as a result I listen to very little of it. Most would argue that it’s popular because it’s uninventive. It appeals to people’s established notions of popular music, and through its refusal to stretch boundaries, it is easily accessible. But I digress.

Recently, the attitude amongst independent musicians, and some listeners, appears to be leaning towards an acceptance and enjoyment of pop. Is this a bad thing? Of course not. To be able to enjoy a form of music regardless of listener base or popularity is a desirable trait. We are too often influenced by stereotypes and manipulated into assuming a certain artist is “bad” – or “good” for that matter – that we subconsciously form part of a judgement before even listening to the song. To try and judge music on its individual merits, and to block out misconceptions surrounding its popularity, shows a strong sense of independence.

There is however, what appears to be a bigger issue.

Subcultures are present all over society, and the predominant one ingrained within the independent scene has now evolved into the hipster subculture. Which summed up in a musical context, is elitism based on musical preferences, with an accompanying fashion aesthetic. Sure, not everyone who enjoys indie behaves like a hipster, but the subculture itself exists, and behaving in such a manner serves no purpose. It doesn’t encourage people to broaden their musical horizons, and it creates a misplaced sense of entitlement and worth. What is important is that hipster-ism isn’t just a subculture – it is a counter-culture. It appears to actively go against the grain. Hipsters gain their sense of worth by standing out and listening to small independent bands most people haven’t heard of, and they sometimes use this to belittle others – in short, they gain their worth by being different.

Of course standing out from the crowd or listening to small bands isn’t bad and shouldn’t be chastised. But to actively seek out new ways to be different for attention, or to abandon bands once they become popular, is pointless.

As independent music becomes more accepted and well known within broader society (bands like Phoenix, Vampire Weekend, and Arcade Fire are prime and outstanding examples), hipsters everywhere are facing a problem – their counter-culture is slowly losing its “counter” aspect. As the hipster aesthetic and musical mindset become more widespread, it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to be different for the sake of being different. They no longer stand out.

The hipster subculture is by no means changing. Whether we will see a large increase in future years as the subculture reaches its peak will remain to be seen, but like the wave of “emos” that came through in the early 2000’s, it appears the subculture will slowly be abandoned by those originally devoted to it, especially as it becomes over-populated by new people interested in the next big trend.

So, what is happening? What’s my point? I believe we are seeing a certain mindset developing in opposition to the onset growth of hipster-ism.

We are seeing an increase in musicians (and probably some listeners of indie as well) who are proclaiming their love of pop music. This is of course completely reasonable, if they truly love and are influenced by pop music. However, the ironic part is that the majority of these artists don’t create pop music, and are in fact largely independent. The music they create may be “pop” in the sense that it’s upbeat and cheery, but it is rarely targeted towards a mainstream audience.

So what? Just because they enjoy pop music doesn’t mean they have to write it as well. Yes, very true.

However, and call me cynical, but from my perspective that may mean that people are not developing a more reasonable and open approach to their music and their tastes. They may not be breaking down musical barriers associated with popularity.

Maybe all this change embodies is another counter-culture. A counter-counter-culture, if you will. A simple reaction to the growing number of hipsters. How many artists and listeners are saying they like pop music now, merely to be different? Merely to go against the grain, and stand against everything hipsters stand for.

Will we see an increase in exclusive indie kids and hipsters, alongside the beginnings of a new counter-culture? Time will tell. Let’s just hope that anything new will be less arrogant and elitist. A broader acceptance of music, and judgement of art on its individual merits alone – whether it exists merely as a counter-culture or for the right reasons – will at least be a step in the right direction.

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

FEATURE: Google deletes The Pop Cop… another blog gone.

You can read up on the full story here, but it appears, yet again, that Google have taken down another prominent music blog.

What’s worse is that it appears that the author of The Pop Cop complied with all of Google’s take-down requests in a prompt manner, yet still got removed from their service.

Here’s an excerpt from the full story:

Please email Google – support@blogger.com – and demand that The Pop Cop blog gets reinstated so I can at least get three years of my life back and move the content elsewhere. If I don’t win this fight, I’m not sure I can bring myself to start from scratch.

If we can give enough support and get this blog back up, or at least get the author a copy of their work, we’ll be doing the blogging community a great service. If you were in this situation, you’d want all the support you could get. Let’s let Google know how we feel and support a fellow music-blogger.

A copy of my e-mail is as follows:

To whom it may concern,

It’s come to my attention that Scottish music blog "The Pop Cop" has currently been removed from your Blogger service.

According to your own terms and conditions, because The Pop Cop REMOVED all of the material which had complaints in a prompt manner, then those instances should NOT count as violations. As such, there should be no reason to remove The Pop Cop from your Blogger service.

The Pop Cop was clearly a relevant and culturally important music blog, especially in the Scotland area. If you could reinstate The Pop Cop, or even provide the author with a copy of all of their work in a .xml format, it would help show that you have a degree of common sense in the face of unfair circumstances. The author complied with all of your take-down requests, and has done nothing wrong.

Thanks for your consideration,

Jeremy Stevens

You can also join the Facebook group to support The Pop Cop here.

BRAND NEW: Operator Please – "Logic"

Operator Please have new album "Gloves" slated for release on the 26th of April, with the new single "Logic" available now as a free download (that is, in exchange for an e-mail address).

A pounding descending bass riff opens the track, but Logic seems to have lost that kind of urgency or vibe inherent in the singles from their debut album. Not a massive problem, perhaps on the whole they’ve matured as a band. In fact I hope they have. That ping-pong song was alright as a novelty at first, but ended up getting on my nerves rather quickly. To be perfectly honest, it feels like "Logic" doesn’t go anywhere fast. The chorus is at least a bit of relief from the slightly-better-than-mediocre verses, which just don’t have any redeeming qualities for me. I was hoping I’d like this single, and initially the bass-riff really caught me by surprise. It was good, but the rest of the song just doesn’t hold up for me.

I wonder if the commercial radio stations will pick up this single for some airplay or not, sometimes it’s hard to tell.

Score: 2/10

If you’re interested, you can grab a download here.

BRAND NEW: Motion City Soundtrack – "Her Words Destroyed My Planet"

Produced by Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 fame, the new record from pop-punk band Motion City Soundtrack, "My Dinosaur Life", is to be released on January the 19th.  The whole album is currently available for streaming on their MySpace page, but I’ll be reviewing the track "Her Words Destroyed My Planet" today.

If you go into this track expecting Motion City Soundtrack to reinvent the metaphorical pop-punk "wheel", you’ll be sorely disappointed. Even their "new style" doesn’t seem that much different to the work on "Even If It Kills Me", albeit the lack of dominating synthesizers, which I must say on the whole is an improvement. Though they can be used to good effect, I found them to get on my nerves more often than not. But I digress. Despite the fact "Her Words…" isn’t anything revolutionary, it’s not a bad effort for what they’re trying to do.

From what I’d read about Hoppus working with the band, I had a lot of hope for a more refined sound and maybe something a bit more outside their comfort zone. I guess maybe it is, but to me it just seems like a small step for the band when I was hoping for something a bit more ambitious. However this is just one track from a whole album, it could very likely be a bad indicator on which to judge the remaining tracks, both stylistically and in terms of quality. Time will tell. Strong fans of the band will no doubt love this track, and it may introduce some new people to the band. But for me, I’m currently doubting any longevity I had previously hoped for.

Score: 4/10

Grab a free download from Spinner here.

The photo was found on the Motion City Soundtrack Wikipedia page, is by Rwiggum, and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.

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.