VIDEO: The Griswolds – “Heart Of A Lion”

"Heart of a Lion" video clip

Sydney group The Griswolds have been on my radar ever since I saw them support Last Dinosaurs. It’s lucky, because they just released their video for “Heart Of A Lion”, which I’ve been holding my breath for, and it’s really quite good. It’s just under three minutes of bright, fluorescent, tropical pop – in short, it’s a bit of a summer jam. From that description, it could easily be stale and dull, but The Griswolds manage to balance all of those warm influences out, and focus it into something great.

Check it out below, and download it for free from their triple j Unearthed page if you like it.

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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.


FEATURE: Skrillex Isn’t THAT Bad Live

Skrillex

Earlier this week I entered a competition, and surprisingly – I won. The prize was a double-pass to a secret show Skrillex was playing in Sydney.

I don’t even really like Skrillex, but I rationalised my entry with the fact that a significant portion of the crowd wouldn’t remember anything from their drug-fueled night. I felt bad making assumptions like that, but after arriving I realised that for the most part, I was right.

My friend and I got there with about 5 minutes to spare (no, thank you Sydney trains!), got our tickets, and went out to wait along the wharf. A ferry pulled up and a group of us got on board. Amidst overhearing debates on the optimal timing for drug consumption, we realised we were more than likely heading out to Cockatoo Island. Cool cool cool.

We got there at about 4, and there was already some guy on stage “droppin’ da bass”. I’m not sure who he was but I didn’t like his stuff very much. He played for quite a while, and then some other guy came on, and he played for quite a while too. And I’m not trying to be disrespectful, I have no idea how these people make their music – to me it’s just someone with a MacBook who turns some dials occasionally, and I have no idea what those dials do – but the bottom line is, it just didn’t sound that brilliant.

Consequently, my friend and I spent our time sitting outside watching drunks try to open portaloos instead.

It all felt a bit like “Lost” – trapped on an island with a bunch of weird things going on, and we knew many would be leaving with numerous plot holes.

I think it was the third guy who came on who really started to get the crowd going though. I feel bad ’cause I don’t know his name, and for the most part, he was quite good. He really got into his set and was jumping around, and he played that song about blocking someone on Facebook, which everyone loved (“FACEBOOK? I USE THAT SITE! MAN, THIS DJ IS SO RELEVANT”). It looked like he kept telling people side of stage that he wanted to play for one more song, but then he had to leave when something happened and the sound cut out. Bit awkward.

After that, Skrillex took to the stage with some other guy. I didn’t know who he was. The guy in front of me told me it was Flux Pavilion, and I was cool with that. But I kinda wanted to see Sonny Moore do his own thing up there, ya know? It looked a bit strange seeing them swapping spots all the time, but I guess it was a pretty unique set at least.

I’m not a huge fan, but it was fun. It was infectious to see everyone up the front going crazy, and the production was great. The screen behind Skrillyflux lit up with all sorts of cool visuals, and even though I don’t know what they were doing on stage, damn did they look cool. I mean I know that has shit all to do with the actual music, and very little to do with performance, but Skrillex looked so at home behind his set up, and he worked the crowd really well – not that he had to try hard.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, if you’re a Skrillex fan and you get a buzz off of dancing to that stuff and going crazy, then chances are you’ll love his show. If you aren’t a fan, then you might be surprised at just what you get out of it. But for what it’s worth it was very cool, and definitely something worth experiencing – if only to see what it’s like.

Nice work, Skrillex. Nice work.

Ps. When I hear “Feel So Close” remixed (badly, too) like 3 times over the one night, its time to find some new songs to work with guys, okay? Okay, cool.

BRAND NEW: Smiles Again – “Isn’t It Ironic ft. I Forget, Sorry!”

In case you missed before, Sydney based hip-hop collective I Forget, Sorry! have big plans for Christmas Eve.

They’re going to be dropping five free mixtapes, one from each artist, and they’re looking to be pretty good.

Read more about the project over here if you’re interested, but in the meantime, check out this exclusive we’ve got for all of you!

Smiles Again (also from Mind Over Matter) has a track featuring every member from the collective, and it closes his mixtape entitled Fuck I’m Lonely. Not only is it hilarious, but it’s got a great beat driving it. Bit of a language warning on this one, but if you love your hip-hop, this is definitely something you’ll wanna jump on. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for those mixtapes tomorrow as well!

Download it here!

TOUR: Buckley Ward

Melbournian indie-popsters Buckley Ward have just returned from a year of working on their sophomore album, and with a new line up as well! They’ve just announced a couple of shows around the country in support of their latest single, “So Pretend”.

Thursday 8 September – Oh Hello, Brisbane, QLD (free show)
Friday 9 September – Lightspace, Brisbane, QLD
Saturday 10 September – FBi Social, Sydney, NSW supporting Winter People
Saturday 24 September – Melbourne, Yah Yahs with I, A Man

Take a listen to “So Pretend” below. Full of lush pop harmonies, they manage to craft this relaxing atmosphere around beautiful guitar melodies. Well worth checking out. You can download it for free over here too.

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).

BRAND NEW/TOUR: Kaiser Chiefs – “Little Shocks”

It’s great too, because while their latest single “Little Shocks” may not have an instant hook like “Ruby”, it shows growth in the band, who are clearly willing to try something new.

The track sounds like a bit of a grower, but it’ll be very interesting to see where their new album goes stylistically. I hope it gets some solid rotation on triple j.

The band are coming over for Splendour, but they’re also playing a couple of sideshows with Papa Vs Pretty and Stonefield.

Wed 3 Aug – UC Refectory, Canberra, ACT – 18+
Fri 5 Aug – Palace Theatre, Melbourne, VIC – 18+
Sat 6 Aug – Enmore Theatre, Sydney, NSW – All ages

There’s a pre-sale for Frontier Members from noon on the 6th of June, for 24 hours (or until the pre-sale allocation is gone). General tickets go on sale from 9am on the 9th of June.

A Splendour sideshow in Canberra? Wow. Well, there you go. Not that I’m complaining of course, seeing I live there. It’s just a bit surprising.