TOUR/COMPETITION: Ben Sherman Big British Sound! + Win some CDs!

For those of you hanging around Sydney and Melbourne, early May is going to bring you some great live music. In fact you guys get access to pretty cool music most of the time. But especially now, because on the 11th and 12th of May is the Ben Sherman Big British Sound!

“What’s that?”, you might ask. Well, it’s a night filled with emerging artists from around Australia. It’s been pretty successful the past two years, and has seen artists like Art Vs Science, Tame Impala, Little Red, and Seabellies grace the stage.

The catch? Each artist performs one or two covers from British artists they like. So not only do you get to see some brilliant Aussie musicians play, but you get to hear some special covers as well.

Head down if you get the chance! Tickets are only about $10 each.

Melbourne
11th May (Wednesday), 2011 – 19:30-22:30
The Corner Hotel, 57 Swan St
Tickets – http://www.cornerhotel.com/
Ball Park Music
Strange Talk
Boy In A Box
Owl Eyes
DJs Simon Winkler & Jess McGuire (RRR)

Sydney
12th May (Thursday), 2011 – 19:30-22:30
The Gaelic Club, 64 Devonshire St, Surry Hills
Tickets – http://www.moshtix.com.au/event.aspx?id=46271
Ball Park Music
Strange Talk
Boy In A Box
Step-Panther
DJs Sweetie & Shag (FBi)

COMPETITION:

Thanks to the folks organising the Ben Sherman Big British Sound, you can score copies of the latest releases from Ball Park Music and Boy In A Box!

All you have to do is comment and tell me who your favourite British artist is, and why! Easy, right? Get to it! Just leave an e-mail address somehow when you leave a comment, otherwise I can’t contact you.

I’ll pick the best entry and announce the winner on Saturday afternoon, so get your entries in early!

Competition is over! Congratulations to Benny Nitro!

TOUR: Phatchance and Coptic Soldier’s “Hey, Where’s Your DJ?” tour

So you may have noticed I recently reviewed Inkstains (Acoustic) and The Sound of Wings 2, the most recent releases from Phatchance and Coptic Soldier.

Well, they’ve recently announced a co-headline acoustic tour around a few of Australia’s major centres to showcase their new material, and if you’re a fan of hip-hop this is not something you want to miss. They’re touring with a full live band, alongside collaborator and musician Jon Reichardt, and if their recent EP releases are anything to go by, this tour will be special indeed.

It’s a shame they can’t make it to more cities, but if you can make it out to see them you really should. Best of luck to everyone involved, I’m sure you’ll smash it!

See the below poster for details.

REVIEW: Coptic Soldier – “The Sound of Wings 2”

In case you missed it, I reviewed The Sound of Wings quite some time ago. Over here. Ultimately I felt it was an alright release, but that better things were to come from Coptic Soldier. The Sound of Wings 2 proves I was right.

For those of you unaware, The Sound of Wings 2 is an acoustic EP from Coptic. If you’re worried, don’t be, because the acoustic atmosphere suits Coptic’s rapping style more than ever, and it’s amazing how much of a difference it makes. This feels like a niche Coptic could easily slot into on a regular basis, because it works really well, and as a result the release sounds much more cohesive.

Like Inkstains (Acoustic), there’s new material, this time in the form of “I Hate Sleep (Acoustic) feat. Charlie Mayfair” and “Fight for the Fame (Acoustic)”, both of which are brilliant. The latter is a personal standout: musically with the guitar picking and strong back-up vocals, and lyrically.

Vocal melodies and hints of jazz instrumentation throughout the EP help it retain the soulful feel its predecessor had, and I don’t think that’s a sound you hear too often. Which is great, because ultimately The Sound of Wings 2 wins through its diversity. It really sets itself apart. Not content with being any normal acoustic release, it goes that step further to differentiate itself (an increasing trend I seem to be seeing with I Forget, Sorry!’s releases). Which is exactly what makes it such a strong release.

And the effort put into it shows. Coptic and Phatchance both reached capacity at Sydney’s Oxford Art Factory three weeks in a row to showcase these acoustic tracks. That alone should tell you there’s something special here.

The Sound of Wings 2 represents what feels like a natural progression for Coptic Soldier. It’s a big step from his last release (despite both sharing tracks), and it’s where Coptic’s real talent starts to shine. Amongst the mountains of musical trash thrown at us every day, The Sound of Wings 2 proves there is always something special out there – you just have to find it.

Grab lead single “I Hate Sleep (Acoustic) feat. Charlie Mayfair” from Coptic’s triple j Unearthed page here, and pick up The Sound of Wings 2 online here!

FEATURE: One last post: This is it.

This was originally going to be posted on my Optus Sound Scribe blog: To Kill A Harpsichord. However, posting closed early last night, and I didn’t get a chance to publish it. So here it is.

P.S. Normal service will resume at On The Tune in a few weeks. I’m taking a short break.

– –

The final post.

I’ll keep it short – if you haven’t read my open letter to everyone yet, it’s over here.

I’d like to say a few more things before this finishes up.

Thank you to everyone who has worked on this project, written alongside me, supported me, or encouraged me to do my best – I owe you one. Epsecially the media institutions like 99.7 Star FM and The Irrigator, who gave me some very helpful publicity.

This has been a fantastic experience – thank you to Optus for making it all possible. I’ve made new friends that I’m sure I’ll keep in touch with for a long time, and I’ve been lucky enough to read some brilliant work from a lot of you.

There are a huge amount people that are close to me I could namedrop to thank, although I can’t possibly list you all. If you have signed my petition, commented, shared the link to my blog, or helped me out in anyway – thank you. It means a lot to me.

That said, I would like to mention a few special people.

Firstly, my parents, for putting up with me constantly blogging and taking time off from study to work on this – thank you. It means a lot that you’ve supported me in being a Scribe, especially during my HSC.

Secondly, my close friends who helped with putting up posters, collecting photos, gathering petitions, and general online support – Alex Hingston, Katelyn Yeo, and Mykal Forrest (especially for Mykal’s artistic poster designs!).

Lastly, I’d like to thank Lian Drinan. She has shared the link to my blog on Facebook constantly since day one, commented on my posts, and helped make a lot of what we’ve all achieved possible. She was a huge help in the Capture Your Community competition, and came up the street with me to help out every time I needed a hand – whether it was putting up posters, or collecting votes. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have a great friend like you helping me throughout this, and I don’t think this can be said enough – thank you.

Good luck to the rest of you in the competition, and in the future – I’m sure a lot of you will achieve some amazing things, whether they’re to do with journalism, music, or both!

All the best,

Jeremy

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.

FEATURE: Albums that grow

Okay, I’m going to go out on a limb. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you listen to enough music to have experienced what I would call a “grower”.

A “grower” is simply an album that grows on you. An album where on first listen, you may have wondered what on earth you were listening to. Where at first you may have thought what you were listening to was absolute rubbish. But then it begins. You slowly, but surely, start to like the songs. And over time, the album continues to get better, it continues to grow on you. And you like it more and more. Until one day you look back and realise something. This album which you at first thought was awful, is now one of your favourite albums.

These kind of albums are pretty special in my opinion. They require much more attention, but in the end they become so much more enjoyable.

Now, just because an album grows on me doesn’t mean it will grow on someone else. But even after taking a subjective perspective with this, there is still a question I’d like you to think about: what is it that makes an album grow on us?

Not only that, but how are we meant to know whether an album is growing on us because of our own developing tastes and musical preferences, or whether it’s growing on us for another reason?

I’m going to be entirely honest with you at this point, and in what may seem like a poorly structured article, give you my conclusion before I explore this question.

In the end, it doesn’t matter one bit. Whether someone likes an album because it has grown on them naturally, or whether some outside influence has affected them, the fact that they enjoy listening to it should be enough.

Now that I have that out of the way, let’s think about the now seemingly unimportant question for a minute. Just for the sake of it.

It all may seem rather ambiguous and murky at the moment, but let me illustrate what I mean with a few examples.

Example 1:

Karnivool’s album “Sound Awake” is an album that has grown on me a great deal. At first, having liked portions of their debut “Themata”, I thought “Sound Awake” was pretty bad. It was much more rhythmically difficult to digest, and seemed to lack the catchy hooks of “Themata”. But over time I learnt to appreciate these rhythmical differences, and I can confidently say it is one of my favourite albums.

Now I can’t say I’ve listened to much progressive rock, which is ultimately what I would classify Karnivool as. Especially “Sound Awake”. So perhaps in this case I had to become used to an entirely new style of music. Does this make it any less of a growing album though, or de-value it? I don’t think so.

I think it’s safe to say that sometimes an album may take time and grow on us because it is so drastically different from our already established listening habits. Which is one of the best reasons to listen to music: to expand your tastes and appreciate material you aren’t familiar with.

For me, “Sound Awake” was an album that grew in a way that I would consider natural. I hadn’t read any reviews of it at the time, and my other friend who is into Karnivool thought the album was terrible, so there weren’t any real influences on me that indicated that I should enjoy it or that it was good. At one point I was more than ready to dismiss it and listen to something else.

But, it grew on me.

Example 2:

Recently I’ve been giving Grizzly Bear’s album “Veckatimest” a bit of a listen. At first, it didn’t strike me as mind-blowingly good. It seemed alright though. But here’s the thing. And I’m not going to lie. I have given it a few listens, and will continue to give it a few more listens, not only because it seems alright, but because it got good reviews. This is what I’m talking about when I mean something might grow for “another reason”.

This sounds like a pretty sad thing to do, and I probably sound like I’m listening to it because it’s a “cool” and “hip” album. But ultimately, it was very well received, and I’d like to know why and give it a proper chance.

Now since I started listening to this album with the view that it would be good, if it does grow on me, how will I know whether it’s growing on me because it’s a good album, or because everyone says it’s good? How do I know I’m not simply convincing myself that it’s quality music because a large number of people say it is? I don’t know. But I get the distinct feeling that sometimes these outside influences (reviews, recommendations from friends, etc.) seem to influence our view of the music way too much. I’d like to think “Veckatimest” is a good album and that I’ll enjoy it. So when it all boils down to it, does this desire for the album to be enjoyable, in fact make it more enjoyable for me? Do I lower my standards because I want to like it?

Personally, I don’t think I do. A case in point being “Merriweather Post Pavilion” by Animal Collective. I wanted to like it, and despite being named Album of the Year by various music sites and reviewers, I still can’t get into it. Not matter how much I try. But it’s undeniable that these kind of reviews and recommendations do have an affect on what I listen to, and to an extent, how I approach it. I’m more willing to give something that’s been recommended to me or something that’s received great reviews multiple listens than something that hasn’t.

As I said before, regardless of whether a review of “Veckatimest” helps me get into the album more because I want to like it and enjoy it, that ultimately doesn’t de-value my experience of the album as a whole. If I enjoy it, that’s all there should be to it.

You may be thinking at this point, “But Jeremy! You review music! Your opinions should not be altered by any third-parties! Why do you have to be told something is good to give it more of a go than anything else? It’s the equivalent of lying to us.”

I would have to disagree with you.

In the end, it’s my opinion and recommendations that you’re reading, and if you choose to act on them and be influenced by them (eg: I give a good review, which prompts you to check an album or song out), your mindset and view is being influenced in exactly the same way mine is when I read reviews. You would expect to hear something that you enjoy, and it follows on that when you listen to it you want to enjoy it.

So when I follow this same pattern and hear things I like and enjoy, it’s exactly the same process.

I don’t think that I necessarily like something more because it got a good review. But I’m more willing to give it an extensive listen in an effort to understand why people think it is good. If along the way I discover that I like it for the same (or for different) reasons, so be it.

That said, I think it’s important to not let these things influence us too much. If I give “Veckatimest” a few more listens, and I’m not motivated to listen to it any longer, I won’t. Just as you shouldn’t listen to something I recommend if you genuinely don’t enjoy it.

You can’t force these things. It has to be natural.

If you take one thing from this article, take this:

In the end, I think the most important thing to think about, and to keep in mind, is this: is the album growing on you naturally, or do you want to like something so badly because it got a good review that you convince yourself that it’s good, or lower your standards?

It’s not good to lower your standards (intentionally or otherwise), or to try and change your opinion, due to someone else’s.

I’m not saying don’t listen to albums that have been given good reviews. It’s important to try new things and give them a serious go. It’s perfectly fine to be influenced in this respect. But it’s important to realise that although something may be popular, it doesn’t mean that you have to or should like it.

Don’t take us music bloggers (or any professional journos for that matter) too seriously. Give stuff a listen and make your own mind up. After all, our opinions are just as valid as yours.

FEATURE: Albums Of The Year – 2009

1. Karnivool – Sound Awake:

An experimental outing relative to their debut, Karnivool have crafted nothing short of a masterpiece with this album. Put simply, this album is a grower. It’s one of those seemingly magical works that transcends logic by becoming more intriguing and enjoyable after every single listen. Rhythmically, Karnivool work on a level superior to most other bands I’ve heard. I’m not sure it’s possible to overstate how great this album is. Ian Kenny’s vocals are really something to behold. However if I was to recommend this band to someone, I would tell them to try their debut album “Themata” first. It’s more accessible and easy to get into, though it has many of the elements of “Sound Awake” in a slightly less experimental form. It’s a great stepping stone for approaching this amazing album.

Link to full review.


2. The Antlers – Hospice:

Hospice evokes a great deal of emotion in observant listeners through it’s tales of death, cancer, and relationships. A very moving album, it makes use of simplistic piano chords that resonate through low levels of ambient electronic noise, that contribute to the songs tonally. Lyrically it’s thematically similar throughout, though it’s incredibly well crafted. With lines like:

With the bite of the teeth of that ring on my finger,
I’m bound to your bedside, your eulogy singer.
I’d happily take all those bullets inside you and put them inside of myself,”

you just might wanna sit down and listen to this one carefully. It’s well worth the effort.


3. Taking Back Sunday – New Again:

Though nothing fancy and special, it’s a great catchy album full of typical pop-rock/punk songs. Nothing revolutionary, but it’s strong and fun, and I liked it. It’s as simple as that.

Link to full review.

~

Other honourary mentions, in no particular order of importance or worth:

The Temper Trap – Conditions:

A blend of catchy pop hooks and stylistically distinct vocals made “Conditions” the strong album that helped The Temper Trap achieve a moderate level of mainstream exposure across Australian commercial radio stations. Though this point is often associated as the beginning of a band’s downfall in terms of originality and livelihood – the fall into being controlled by industry giants in terms of creativity and sound – “Conditions” builds the foundations through which The Temper Trap can continue to grow and explore music. Hopefully they will.

Metric – Fantasies:

The electro-pop synths of Metric merge together with agile guitar hooks, all overlayed by Emily Haines’ entrancing vocal lines, to portray the confident sense of maturity inherent on this album. Moving from the dominating songs like “Sick Muse” to songs like “Twilight Galaxy”, which show a more delicate side of the album, helps display the diverse range of moods that are explored over the course of the LP. An engaging album that is an exciting look at what seemed like – to me – a stagnating style of music.

Passion Pit – Manners:

Infectious pop melodies dominate the debut from Passion Pit. The first 4 tracks are very good indeed. After that, it drops a bit, but manages to pick up before the end. “Sleepyhead” is short, but very catchy. Not a bad effort for their first album. I like it for the most part.

Future of the Left – Travels with Myself and Another:

Taking a raw, alternative rock sound, Future of the Left created an album full of simple and strong riffs, interspersed between harsh and powerful vocal lines. Stripping songs down to what seems like the essential qualities of fast, angry rock music, the album has it’s moments, with fills in-between that leave just a little to be satisfied. Despite giving it a score of 6.5/10 (maybe I was a tad harsh), it’s well built, and it’s just plain fun.

Link to full review.

Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix:

Catchy french pop/rock with distinctive vocals. This album really propelled Phoenix into a musical limelight. It’s quite good, but hasn’t caught on with me as much as I’d have liked it to. It’s one of those odd times when I can recognise how good something is, yet still not feel compelled to listen to it for some reason. Nevertheless, it’s a pretty good album.

The xx – xx:

The xx make slow, relaxing, and dare I say minimalistic music, that gives off an aura of spaciousness, while still seeming defined and not coming off as some band’s attempt at improvisation. Though the songs do seem to lag a bit in the middle, and the first half of the album does seem great deal stronger, they’re worth checking out. Plus the first track, “Intro”, is actually a very good introduction, which sets them apart from those bands who have introductions that seem to contribute absolutely nothing to the album.