Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Week Two

Second week back and it just keeps getting better! The show this week was a major Bright Eyes fest. I took the time to freely indulge in the genius that is Conor Oberst, reviewing and selecting tracks from his two new albums, released simultaneously, 'I'm Wide Awake, it's Morning' and 'Digital Ash in a Digital Urn'. He is such an enigmatic guy; obscure, indulgent and always pretentious but he very cleverly gets away with it. These two albums add to the rather large collection of LPs, EPs and collaborations with other artists such as Son, Ambulance. Could anyone pick up the major Bob Dylan influence in 'I'm Wide Awake, it's Morning'? Just to add, the guy is gorgeous and has one of the best haircuts in indie rock. Check out the review at the bottom of this post.

Thought I'd look at some musical issues, not too seriously of course, but I briefly talked about...

The 'sellout'. I know it's talked about a lot but it's a big deal with indie music. I used to hate it when a band I loved started to gain a lot of momentum in the press and then what seems like overnight exploding onto everyone's radio. Ah, I could no longer claim them my own little treasure and risked being labelled pretentious if I insisted I loved them before they got big. So what do you do? Diss them? Put them in the back of your CD collection and pretend you never liked them? It took me a while to realise that this is stupid, as good music is good music, it doesn't change because the band gains a lot more fans. Of course, the band can get sucked into the fame machine, at which point you have to re-evaluate their integrity. But hey, Brandon Flower's was voted sexiest man alive in the NME music awards and The Killers still kick arse (of course we have to wait for new material...).

Originlity in music - does it exist these days? Have we exhausted our musical limits? Wolfmother are an Aussie band who pretty much sound like a reincarnation of Black Sabbath, particularly the vocals which sound uncannily like Ozzy Osborne's. I think they sound great, but are they credible if they sound exactly like what was happening 30 years ago? This has been argued a lot now, what with the whole garage rock revival, with bands like Jet.

Ok, so enough music philosophising. Something to get excited about this week is The Dears gig tomorrow night at Melbourne's Prince of Wales. It should definately be a show to remember. A band I can claim I did know before they hit commercial radio! Also listen out for the Doves review on my next show. Cover song last night was by The Futureheads , who gave us Kate Bush's 'Hounds of Love'. Bluebottle Kiss also did this song on their 'Tapdancing on the Titanic' EP, something worth checking out. Any suggestions for cover songs, email me!

Playlist for Monday 28th Feb:

Kasabian - Club Foot
Death Cab For Cutie - We Laugh Indoors
Mexico City - No Sympathy
The Killers - Jenny Was a Friend of Mine
Bluebottle Kiss - Everything Begins and Ends at Exactly the Right Time
Bright Eyes - Landlocked Blues
The Arcade Fire - Neighbourhood Part 3 (Power Cut)
The Cure - Pictures of You
Love Outside Andormeda - Gonna Try and be a Girl
Wolfmother - Dimension
The Walkmen - Little House of Savages
American Analog Set - Hard to Find
Young Heart Attack - Tommy Shots
Bright Eyes - Easy/Lucky/Free
Elliott Smith - Let's Get Lost
The Dears - Lost in the Plot
The Futureheads - Hounds of Love (original by Kate Bush)

Bright Eyes Album Reviews:

The voice of Conor Oberst, the enigmatic genius behind Bright Eyes, is one of intrigue, both in terms of its fragile, heartfelt delivery and the magnificent words that pour out in storytelling mode. The 24 year old indie rock veteran has been writing poignant songs since he was 13 and as such has often been labeled as rock’s boy genius. His releases are often obscure and impenetrable to the impatient listener, but for those persistent enough, Oberst’s voice is like an addictive drug that will reduce you to tears in no time.

The first of the two simultaneously released records is ‘I’m wide Awake, it’s Morning’. After listening to this country flavored acoustic offering it is no wonder why Oberst has been called the contemporary Bob Dylan. Often he simply strings an acoustic guitar and belts out a story in what seems like whatever words pop into his head at that instant. ‘Landlocked Blues’ sounds like early Dylan; lengthy verses over a simple, yet captivating, acoustic guitar. It is the simple songs, featuring Oberst and his lovelorn guitar, that are the most effective.

Then there are the songs with a laidback melancholic country feel. The blissful piano and the all too familiar slide guitar feature throughout ‘I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning’. ‘Another Travelin’ Song’ is more upbeat, with playful drumming and Oberst’s stream of consciousness like singing. At times he tries to pack in as many words into one sentence as he can, but he never sounds clumsy.

Oberst is a true wordsmith. He will touch your heart with lyrics about driving all night to meet someone in the morning all the while making acute observations about everyday life, like an overflowing ashtray. His voice is delicate and brittle, at times shaking under the weight of the emotion pouring out. Just when you think he’s going to falter the music bursts and his tremoring voice rises above it all. It is made all the more heartfelt with the help of Emmylou Harris’ subtle harmonies. His images are evocative and empathetic. Take a sample from ‘Poison Oak’ which reads “Now I’m drunk as hell on a piano bench and when I press the keys it all gets reversed. The sound of loneliness makes me happier”. Oberst’s records are often very indulgent and lengthy but I feel that ‘I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning’ is almost flawless; the songs are more stripped back in comparison to pervious releases, the record is succinct and by the time the final, most intense tune ‘Road to Joy’ rolls around, it leaves you wanting more. This is Oberst’s best acoustic pieces to date; sincere and always passionate.

‘Digital Ash in a Digital Urn’ is more of a challenge to listen to and is ‘Wide Awakes’ polar opposite. Here is more of a self-conscious studio experiment. It’s constructed of robotic beats and drum loops, dressed in sonic sounds and ambience. The orchestral element that enters many of Oberst’s songs is stripped away in ‘Wide Awake’ but is welcomed back in ‘Digital Ash’. The result is a claustrophobic, moody, electronic record.

Many of Oberst’s opening songs are strange choices to begin a record with. They can be long winded and repetitive and first song ‘Time Code’ from ‘Digital Ash’ is no exception. It begins sparsely and is ambient, making for a very gradual build up before robotic drums kick in. Unfortunately, it’s not at all captivating. Track two, ‘Gold Mine Gutted’ is more redeeming, the keyboards creating a desolate mood. ‘Arc of Time’ is interesting; molding jittery drum loops with an acoustic guitar that has a slightly classical feel to it. ‘Take it Easy (Love Nothing)’ is a joy to listen to. Jimmy Tomborello of the Postal Service lends a hand in this first single, a band who Oberst takes inspiration from in this record.

The heartfelt emotion is still evident in Oberst’s voice but the music somewhat distances the listener from experiencing it completely. But there are certain lyrics that will once again, have you sighing with their sensitivity. “I feel like a piñata won’t u take a swing at me if you could just crack the shell open I think inside you would find something sweet”. In ‘Hit the Switch’ Oberst takes a good, hard look at himself and the drunken images are stark and painful.

‘Digital Ash’ is more excessive than ‘Wide Awake’ and some sequences can be a little repetitive. But aurally it is very interesting and Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs proves to be a worthy collaborator on five of the album tracks. Indulgent and pretentious as always, but only Conor Oberst could get away with it.

Week One

Feels great to be back on the airwaves. Although I was rockin' by myself in the studio I had a lot of fun. Thanks to the guys who sms-ed me, I will definately be playing 'Little House of Savages' by The Walkmen next week for Hatman, glad you enjoyed it.

Played some new and exciting tunes on the show, including 'Skeleton' which is on the new Bloc Party album released yesterday (Feb 21st), got my dirty hands on a new Beck track called 'Que Onda Guero' off the new album 'Guero' released March 21st and 'Black and White Town' by Doves. I just heard that Doves will be releasing the new album 'Some Cities' this week in a very special package which includes the CD, bonus DVD and an exclusive poster packaged in a linen bound box. Sound's pretty special and I may be reviewing this one in the near future.

Which brings me to the album review: Hope everyone enjoyed listening to snippets from The Dears album 'No Cities Left'. If you want to argue or discuss what I thought about the album then don't be scared to post a comment. Of course if you don't want people reading it then try my email:


You can read the review again at the bottom of this post. Next will probably be one (or two) of the Bright Eyes newies: 'I'm Wide Awake, it's Morning' and 'Digital Ash in a Digital Urn'. Of course the boy released two simultaneously; he's a pretentious indie rock kid! And God love him for it.

The Killers will be appearing on The O.C. tonight, playing a few tunes to the kids who are desperately trying to rekindle old flames. Ah Seth, you can have me any day.... From memory they don't play 'Somebody Told Me' - I thinks it's 'Mr Brightside' and 'Smile Like You Mean It' - refreshing if you ask me. Don't want to over do that brilliant song until it becomes not so brilliant and slightly irritating. That would be a tragedy. SO, The Killers will be blasting down my airwaves next week on the show.

Cover song suggestions are greatly appreciated. I am planning to end each show on a cover song and had some positive feedback of Something For Kate's haunting version of David Bowie's 'Ashes to Ashes'. Turned it upside down; it's stripped back and acoustic, no funked up beats 80s Bowie style.

Playlist for Monday Feb 21st:

The Shins - Kissing the Lipless
Ryan Adams - Afraid, Not Scared
The Devoted Few - Counting Cars
The Walkmen - The Rat
Cut Copy - Going Nowhere
Bloc Party - Skeleton
Doves - Black and White Town
Beck - Que Onda Guero
Death From Above 1979 - Little Girl
Radiohead - Just
The Dears - We Can Have It
Les Savy Fav - Je Taime
Ground Components - Crying Time
Sarah Blasko - Don't U Eva
Moving Units - Between Us and Them
The Rapture - House of Jealous Lovers
Something For Kate - Ashes to Ashes (original by David Bowie)

Album Review: The Dears - No Cities Left

The six darlings hailing from Montreal who call themselves The Dears have unleashed quite an emotionally charged epic, riding the scale from dark and brooding to well-crafted pop. ‘No Cities Left’ is melodramatic, ornate and has masterpiece written all over it, but somehow the songs are never over done. They have you gasping for breath but give you that exhilarating effect that makes you want to ride the roller coaster all over again.

The Dears echo past wailings of Britpop, most notably in singer Murray Lightburn’s doom ridden voice, reflecting The Smith’s enigmatic front man Morrissey. In each song there is the added drama of violins, which make the climatic build up in ‘Expect the Worst / Cos she’s a Tourist’ so intense, or a horn section, or smooth, jazzy elements that sweep ‘Warm and Sunny Days’ and ‘The Second Part’ in a velvety haze.

‘Lost in the Plot’ is the obvious choice for the first single and it is a sublime pop moment. Hooking you in with melancholic keyboards and soaring guitars the song is incessantly catchy. It bursts with intensity thanks to the painful wail of Lightburn’s voice, engulfing it in poignancy, yet somehow leaving you heartened, a case in point for the whole album.

The Dears don’t keep things predictable. The songs vary in pace or come to a complete change in style half way through. ‘Expect the worst / Cos she’s a tourist’ comes to an abrupt stop; the energy and vibrant mood now soaked in ambience and lethargy as it drifts slowly by. The same unpredictable changes can be said for ‘We Can Have It’ and ‘Postcard from Purgatory’, the albums 8 minute ominous masterpiece.

‘No Cities Left’ is no doubt indulgent and extravagant but even with an incredible amount of instruments and layering happening in each song it works so well. It’s haunting, sentimental pop that is completely endearing and not without charm. The notorious UK music mag NME may have claimed that The Dears are probably the best new band in the world right now and for once I think the hype may not be misplaced.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Ready, Set...GO!

Welcome all. Having just attended the all important presenters meeting, I am getting quite excited about the show which starts this coming Monday the 21st of Feb. I am opening the indie nights which means that everyone should stayed tuned until at least 12am for the best night on radio ever and catch some great indie tunes on SYN. I do mean to be pretentious by creating this site, but I don't want to pretend I am the indie music master. I love it and I do have extensive knowledge on it, but probably not as much as some of you who are tuning in. So, comments and criticisms are greatly accepted. Just be prepared to cop the abuse back ;)

That said, this week I will have an album review on The Dears' debut 'No Cities Left' and will be continuing the 'feature album review' every week on the show. The Walkmen appeared on The O.C. tonight. What a delight. I'll be playing a song of theirs on the show that'll have you thinking of Seth Cohen in no time.

If you think you can't tune in cos you don't live in Melbourne, the best city in Australia, then head over to www.syn.org.au and they will get you connected; internet radio streaming. God loves technology.

So get your ears ready music lovers. Get Excited!