Monday, 16 September 2013

New Music Monday #69

In Rolling Waves
by The Naked And Famous (out now)

Before I started this review, I asked a couple of people to name me some bands from New Zealand. The results of my extensive poll (extensive is subjective, alright?) showed an interesting trend. The most common answers were Flight Of The Conchords and Crowded House. How unfortunate that no matter how many awesome bands come from that beautiful country, the general public seem to think of the Finn's and a joke band when they think of NZ's contribution to music. Thankfully for us, bands like The Naked And Famous are a testament to just how awesome some New Zealander musicians  are.

It's hard to believe the first album from this five piece was released three years ago. I still get a little happy at those first notes of 'Punching In A Dream' as much now as I did then. How awesome then, that I should have the same feeling in the first thirty seconds of the first track from In Rolling Waves. There's a sense of promise at the start of  'A Stillness'; a sense of something big about to happen, the quick beat pulling me in and promising so much. It's a road song, a song I know I'm going to love all summer long and it only leads to so many great things on an album I have loved from very first listen.

'Hearts Like Ours', the first single, is a such a catchy track waiting for a soundtrack, 'Waltz' is a little slower but somehow manages to balance subdued and loud in a five minute anthem, 'The Mess' is an interesting vocal duet, the beginning sounding almost like a baby version of The XX (when they're happy, which is still reasonably restrained) and ending like a bit like Chvrches, or do Chvrches sound like The Naked And Famous? I don't know, but I like both bands so I suppose that's irrelevant.

'Golden Girl' is a beautiful soft mess of synths, beats and strong vocals, 'I Kill Giants' is instantly likable on it's bizarrely cute title alone, 'We Are Leaving' is as fabulously dark as its title, while the final track, 'A Small Reunion' sounds like it could be played over the credits of a teen film, but that's not a bad thing, it has a sound of strings that I adore, a crescendo that closes a fabulous album perfectly, restrained strength and a sudden ending. It left me desperately wanting more.

Before I started this review, I googled to see what other people thought of this album. There's already a lot of hype. The second album for any band is always a difficult one, especially when the first was so strong and garnered a reputation as a band to watch out for. Ultimately, regardless of where they are from or how much hype there is, this is an album I like. Somehow The Naked And Famous manage to make every song epic without making them sound the same, they make each track as interesting as the last and they've created an album I'll be playing all summer long. When I think of 2013 years from now, I know some of these tracks are going to place me straight back in this year because they've created some songs that are bound to make my own soundtrack, if not many others.

Jo Michelmore gives In Rolling Waves four Kylie heads out of five...

Howl EP
By Lester The Fierce (out now)

“You want me quiet, I don’t know how, my spirit sings, so here I howl.” Anita Lester’s spirit sings, howls and blows you away throughout Lester The Fierce’s dynamic new EP, Howl. The opening title track is a glorious 90s-inspired rock anthem that introduces our leading lady; bold and fearless with a hint of danger and a huge serving of sex appeal. Think Shirley Manson, but only that essence of the quintessential 90s rocker as Lester has her own distinct, modern identity that draws you deep down into her music. ‘Howl’ is one song I just can’t get enough of, from the initial rumblings of the guitar line through to the soaring vocals in the chorus, this is pure rock perfection.

‘Bird’ invites you into a smokey, low-lit lounge bar, with Lester crooning out her animalistic desires. Jazz rhythms are infused into her pop-rock sensibilities. The instrumentation is pretty lush with horns and strings marking a sonic departure from ‘Howl’, showing Lester The Fierce is more than a one-note act. Things appear to move in a sunnier direction for ‘Colours’, with LTF serenely singing that she’ll, “pick the poppies round until the colours fade, I’ll walk the dusty shores and greet repeating May’s.” It’s easy to get swept up in the how bright and breezy the music is, but the track is far from sunshine on a rainy day (even though her soul may be drip, drip, dripping away). There’s hopeless longing and defeated acceptance to discover in the lyrics, leaving you responding to the track a little bit differently with each listen.

More direct with just as equally engaging lyrics is ‘January’. LTF’s delivery is very honest as she discusses the visit of a recurring paramour (realistically a sex friend, with an admittance that the two were never, nor will likely be in love). Production duties on Howl were handled by Jonathan Dreyfus, who’s background in film composition works wonderfully in telling the story in ‘January’. “And I tell myself that summers low, is all at the end, but you tell me that I’m beautiful, again,” makes me think of those Richard Linklater films with the relationship drama and a beautiful setting in Paris or Rome or… sigh. Dreamy pop right here.

The Howl EP ends with the darker tone of ‘Volcano’, a track that’s subtle/not-so-subtle theme of sex drives a track that works its way into your brain. “She’s manic, she’s panic, satanic, volcanic.” Yes, a million times yes. ‘Volcano’ is a close second for my favourite EP cut after ‘Howl’ and with a seriously strong opening and closing track, you’ll find yourself working your way through Howl over and over again. I want to hear more and more from this talented lady. Let’s hope Lester The Fierce keeps on howlin’ for many years to come. Bring on the debut album!

Matt Bond gives Howl five Chrissie Amphlett heads out of five...

by Eliza Hull 
EP: The Ghosts You Never Catch (October 4, 2013)

"I'm a fool in your web, loving a ghost of a man." Eliza Hull's appeal grows with every new release and with the new single, 'Christopher', we have her finest release to date. What a stunning track. Each time I listen, three and half minutes disappear in a beautiful blur. Hull, frequent collaborator Hayden Calnin (production) and Dylan Hill (beats) have created something that builds on the haunting and sparse 'Ghosts' and 'Echoes' to a fuller sound as the song progresses. When she sings the chorus lines, "I'll be there for you, Christopher," there's a new found warmth in Hull's voice that adds a crushing impact to the rest of 'Christopher'. I'm terrible at interpretation, but there's the implication throughout the verses that our narrator is on her way out of this relationship's door. "When you wake, I'll be gone, I'll run into the dark, even though I crave to stay." It just seems mighty sad when you listen to the chorus.

There's a lot of development in every aspect of Eliza Hull's sound on 'Christopher'. The lyrics are phenomenal, with the right mix of heartache and heartbreak in Hull's words that remain somewhat of a mystery for the listener to unravel. Adding Hill to the team is an exciting addition to the Hull/Calnin partnership and makes me anticipate the release of The Ghosts You Never Catch just that little bit more. I feel like I've listened to 'Christopher' a thousand times and it doesn't seem to be enough. I'm going to go listen to it again. You should too.

Matt Bond gives 'Christopher' five Nick Cave heads out of five...

Work Bitch 
by Britney Spears 
Album: TBA (???, 2013)

It's Britney, bitch. Bitch, bitch, bitch. She sure does love that word. You'd better work... bitch. 'Work Bitch' is a mess and not necessarily a hot one. I blame for everything. Everything! The random lapses into a British accent? It's's fault. Lyrics like, "working hard like it's your pro-fe-ssion, watch out now, 'Cause here it comes"? It's's fault. The overproduction is most certainly's fault since he's, you know, the producer and all. Slightly derailing Spears' hard work (bitch) post-meltdown to reclaim her former glory? It's's fault. "Go call the po-lice, go call the gov-er-nor, I bring the trouble, that means the trouble's on." How do I feel? I want to scream and shout and let it all out. And not in a good way.

Matt Bond gives 'Work Bitch' two Ke$ha heads out of five...


Wrecking Ball
by Miley Cyrus 
Album: Bangerz (what a stupid name, 2013)


I was trying so hard to take this seriously until Hannah Montana started licking the sledgehammer. The laughter stopped when Miley started getting it on with the wrecking ball (like, hardcore) and my keen psychological perspective determined that she is subject to objectum sexuality. Chica likes to get down with the inanimate objects. Then I got lost in Cyrus' terrible acting, started laughing again and the video came to an end and that was that. I can see why this is so popular! And by popular, I mean 100 million YouTube hits in six days. You stay classy, planet Earth. The world's obsession with Miley Cyrus continues for at least another 15 minutes. P.s. if you want to see vocalists that have mastered the single tear close up shot, you should invest some time in Janelle MonĂ¡e and Sinead O'Connor.
 Matt Bond gives 'Wrecking Ball' one Britney Spears head out of five...


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