SERvin' Up! - w/c March 24, 2017
Jarvis Cocker & Chilly Gonzales – Room 29
Ronald J Bruner - Triumph
El Duende – Making Storms
Dayme Arocena – Cubafonia
Wire – Silver/Lead
Augustus Pablo – King David's Melody
Kelly Dance – Wild Grass
D Henry Fenton & The Elozabethans – Twice I Fell Down Once
The Jesus and Mary Chain – Damage and Joy
Ondatropica – Baile Baile Bucanero
John Belushi overdosed there. Led Zeppelin rode motorbikes through the lobby. Lindsay Lohan got banned after holing up there and cracking nearly 50K on her room service bill. And now the infamous Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles is the setting for the new album from Brit-pop's ever-reigning king of observational dry wit, Jarvis Cocker, in collaboration with Chilly Gonzales. If that second name means nothing to you, the Canadian artist was a cutting and often crazily hilarious rapper and electronic producer but traded up to play piano and work arrangements for the likes of Drake, Daft Punk and Feist. Their album Room 29 is a song cycle's surrounding the dank, grey side of Hollywood life when the bright lights have shut for good. Lifestyles of the rich and famous become ways of the aimless in the hands of Cocker's droll delivery of his hapless characters' exploits and musings, fatuously lavish and thus simultaneously empty. This is the stuff that crops up like a large ink splat on Cocker's radar, and his lounge lizard delivery alongside Gonzales' sparse piano makes this an unsparing set but not without some empathy in their caricature. Also, it has to be mentioned this is out on venerable classical music label Deutsche Grammphon, which makes Cocker now labelmates with Mozart.
Kelly Dance's second album Wild Grass sees her adopted home of China as the core of its lyrical concerns, circling both in its current state and future. But Dance doesn't deal in a dry, academic treatise, taking flight from Chinese science fiction's fantastical treatments of the nation's whirring transformations. Dance's songs don't come easy but take time with them and they'll absorb you, curling around like smoke with the same mysterious air as PJ Harvey's dark rock thrust but also the airy and light way of folk that carries its essential outlook of open-ended possibility.
You might say The Jesus and Mary Chain were the surprise hit of the 2016 Spectrum Now Festival, but to be a surprise hit you really need a critical mass of people to be surprised. Not many people were there to witness a more-than-solid set that featured new songs that have found their way onto their first set of new material in 19 years, Damage and Joy. The formula hasn't changed much but it case you need a refresher, the band led by the ever-bedraggled and detached brothers Jim and William Reid soup up blues riffs with fuzz to a psychedelic tip of art-damage rock. I always liked their slow, hazy, narcotic rollers rooted in a 50s ballad style and there are plenty of those on Damage and Joy - some featuring Isobel Campbell - to keep me happy. Nineteen years is a long time to sit on the raw, electric thrill they mastered, and there's polish here than rightfully should be, but this chain isn't quite all broken yet.
Also, new tunes from Melburnians The Meltdown and Poppongene, Sydney's Belles Will Ring and the onetime Sydneysider we will still claim as ours, Tim Rogers.
Enjoy it all on 2SER,
Laura Marling – Semper Femina
Hurray For The Riff – The Navigator
Spoon – Hot Thoughts
Real Estate – In Mind
Angie – Shyness
Chicano Batman – Freedom Is Free
Jay Som – Everybody Works
The Shins – Heartworms
Various Artists – Desert Divas Volume 2
Various Artists – Synthesize the Soul: Astro-Atlantic Hypnotica From The Cape Verde Islands 1973 – 1988
Having run away still in her teens from her broken family home in New York, Alynda Segarra hopped trains al over America. She made New Orleans her home after befriending that city's street musicians who encouraged her to start playing guitar and since then the band she formed, Hurray For The Riff Raff, have been a loose collective of that city's varied players led by the strength of her songwriting vision. Committed fans of the band – a growing number with each album – know that you can pick a Segarra song but not so much her style, having worked in the cracks of Americana with a rough n' tumble approach that bucks and kicks against staid roots music norms. On the latest album, The Navigator, you'll find Segarra somewhat a little more refined but also turning over yet again towards the tough but literate rock style fostered in her original New York home by the likes of Patti Smith, fused with the warm, communal sounds heard in Puerto Rican community she grew up in in the Bronx. Joy and openness define Segarra's songs as much as their lack of frippery – life in America is one big glorious mess and she intends to swim right through it all, having a damn good time being as serious as she wants to be.
If you've missed the edge in the breezy, crafty indie-pop fostered by The Shins in their early years, you've been missing it a long time, with their hallowed debut Oh, Inverted World going all the way back to 2001. Where James Mercer's songs were nimble and full of intimate insights dropped without a hint of cloying, later efforts tended towards the slick and cutesy. Now, having taken the reins of The Shins solely and wholly back to himself and self-recording and producing the new album Heartworms, it feels like the real James Mercer has stood up and reclaimed his idiosyncrasies. Heartworms proves the difference is often in the detail.
The new album from Chicano Batman, Freedom Is Free, is flower-power positive and unrelentingly funky – if that sounds like an old bongo-addled flatmate then fear not because the LA band show a deft hand with the message in their music, not to mention humility and humour. Snatches of soul, r ' n b, the tropical, psychedelic side of Brazilian pop and Spanish caballero music are sublimely filtered through their tight rock package, so infectious that it's hard to resist.
The second volume of Desert Divas comes from NT Music's initiative to mentor and record emerging indigenous female artists from the Northern Territory, and on display is a wonderfully diverse array of artists who move from country to soul to atmospheric electronica, often concocting a captivating sound from all three and then some. With mentors like Hiatus Kaiyote's Nai Palm and Leah Flanagan on board, it's a great reminder of the creativity that comes from some of the more far-flung reaches of Australia, well away from the hustle n' brand type sounds devised by our major cities' industry players.
Also, new tunes from Sydneysiders Flowertruck, Melbourne duo Heat Wave, a new Sydney do featuring Infinity Broke mainman Jamie Hutchings and Crow's Peter Fenton called The Tall Grass, Adam Gibson & The Ark-Ark Birds and Clark.
Enjoy it all on 2SER,
The New Music Review is taking a break this week, but here's what's on our airwaves this week!
SERvin' Up! - w/c March 13, 2017
Gabriella Cohen - Full Closure and No Detail
Omar Rodriguez-Lopez - Azul, Mis Dientes
Anna Calvi - Live for Burberry EP
Lowland Hum - Thin
Daedelus - Baker's Dozen
Temples - Volcano
Broads - Vacancy
Sleaford Mods - English Tapas
Methyl Ethel - Everything is Forgotten
The New Music Review is taking a break this week, but here's what's on our airwaves this week!
SERvin' Up! - w/c March 6, 2017
Nadia Reid - Preservation
The Blackeyed Susans - Close Your Eyes And See
Francois & The Atlas Mountains - Solide Mirage
Ibibio Sound Machine - Uyai
Sarah Bethe Nelson - Oh, Evolution
Thievery Corporation - Temple of I & I
Clap! Clap! - A Thousand Skies
Various Artists - That's Not An Edit Volume 5
Karriem Riggins - Headnod Suite
Oddisee - The Iceberg
Plus new singles from Saskwatch, Kelly Dance, Allah-Las, Kit Warhurst, Luke Yeoward and The Mountain Goats!
PVT – New Spirit
Thundercat – Drunk
Dirty Projectors – Dirty Projectors
King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard – Flying Microtonal Banana
Sun Kil Moon – Common As Love & Light Are Red Valleys Of Blood
Bing & Ruth – No Home Of The Mind
Dag – Benefits of Solitude
Sallie Ford – Soul Sick
Molly Burch – Please be Mine
Various Artists – Studio One Rocksteady Volume 2
PVT have always been a band to create cohesion from the music's ever-blurring boundaries. Starting life at the intersection of jazz and post-rock, they then took the freedom and extended reach inherent in both further in deploying electronics for cavernous, otherworldly results. In more recent years, pop melody has come into their focus and vocals along with it. On their latest album, New Spirit, the band have hit a sweet spot all their own between atmosphere and song. With a sense of the epic that Radiohead might be jealous of, New Spirit puts a digital kind of precision on Eastern and Western influences – mechanised, percussion-heavy Japanese pop from the 80s and its global outlook seems to be an inspiration – as the soundtrack for a vision of Australia and its own fizzing culture.
Sallie Ford is a new name to me, but she used to front a band from Portland, Oregon called The Sound Outside. On evidence of her new solo album, Soul Sick, I'm keen to check them out retrospectively. It's an absolutely buzzing and jumped-up set of songs, with cracking rockabilly-style stompers full of gritty guitars aplenty. Upfront of it all, Ford is happy to come off a little off the hook to give the raw feeling of her tunes an extra kick. Ironically, it's all quite self-deprecating, like each tune is an instalment in her going all the way down, but doing it with a real kick at each point.
The uber-bassist of choice for Kendrick Lamar and Flying Lotus – not to mention thrash-and-burn heavyweights Suicidal Tendencies – Thundercat has slowly drip-fed singles since mid last year from his new album Drunk, but he's got 23 tracks all up on the final product so there's plenty of gems fresh for the picking. You can feel the joy Thundercat (real name: Stephen Bruner) has with his music as well as the humour, but there's no mickey being taken out of the 80s style soft-rock cushioned well throughout Drunk. Soft-rock has been one of the mainlines of modern pop's retro obsessions, not to reinvent upon old sounds, but simply painting them with irony. Thundercat however wrings it to emotional ends in the way he has used heart to connect his fondness for hip hop, 70s funk, jazz and soul. It helps having Kenny 'Footloose' Loggins and The Doobie Brothers' Michael McDonald on board, too.
Also this week, new tunes from Sydneysiders Alba, Dappled Cities, All Our Exes Live In Texas and Angie, global fusions from Mista Savona, soul newcomers The Jay Vons and Como Mamas, Spoon and the return after 20 years of 90s UK pop darlings, Ride.
Enjoy it all on 2SER,
Toby Martin – Songs From Northam Avenue
Life Will See You Now – Jens Lekman
Horrorshow – Bardo State
Ryan Adams – Prisoner
Tim Darcy – Saturday Night
Strand of Oaks – Hard Love
Sloppy Heads – Useless Smile
Sinkane – Life & Livin' It
Jesca Hoop – Memories Are Now
Foam – Coping Mechanisms
Youth Group singer Toby Martin's second solo album was borne from a special project in collaboration with Sydney's Urban Theatre Projects, that saw Toby camp out across various front gardens and backyards in Blacktown to write in poetic observation about life in the western suburbs. The resulting Songs From Northam Avenue was recorded with diverse musicians from Vietnamese and Middle Eastern backgrounds and produced by drummer and percussionist extraordinaire Bree Van Reyk (Holly Throsby, Seeker Lover Keeper, Ensemble Offspring, Synergy) It's focus – the stories of Western Sydney in all its multicultural glory – is rarely seen in song these days and Martin finds a sweet balance between earthy and exotic, gently working a seamlessly beautiful and poignant line throughout.
Thankfully for Californian-born, Manchester-based Jesca Hoop, being a nanny to Tom Waits' children isn't the most interesting part of her CV. It was Waits and his wife and songwriting partner Kathleen Brennan that helped Hoop kickstart her own career in song and it was no mere favour for all those bedtime stories. Those two can pick an idiosyncratic talent when they see one and now four albums in with Memories Are Now just out she is breaking through on her own, especially after the gentle set of duets she did last year with Iron & Wine mainman man Sam Beam. Hoop's own work has a smoky and mysterious air about them that give them a compelling nature – think of a folkier Joan As Police Woman – but also have a singalong style to them that most couldn't pull off the way she does.
We're up to album number six for Sinkane, the project for London-based Sundanese multi-instrumentalist and producer Ahmed Gallab. You might however know Gallab better from his work in tribute to the recently-passed Nigerian artist William Onyeabor and his unique synth-powered Afro-funk music, clearly a great inspiration for Sinkane. Life and Livin' It has the kind of joyous outlook in pursuit of higher thinking and liberation where positivity and politics aren't mutually exclusive. Sound and vision match – a dreamy pop spin on the freewheeling African and funk sounds Gallab is in clear thrall to as well as the future-reaching Kraftwerk and their epic, spacey sense of rhythm and space. This is a melting-pot of serious vibes designed to have you set on a constant upswing of thought and feeling.
Any 90s post-rock fans out there? Math rock perhaps? There must be – Steve Albini's Shellac toured him to great crowds last year still hungry for that dynamic, exacting, angular rock sound they own and of course Mr Albini still makes a living recording bands looking to reproduce that particular precision-oriented thwack n' thump that HURTS SO GOOD. Well, look no further than Perth's Foam for your latest hit straight out of the playbook passed on by the likes of both Jesus Lizard and June of '44, hoisting up a hard edge with melody, sly groove and wry observational humour. The album's called Coping Mechanisms, after all.
Tim Darcy fronts US outfit Ought, but he wrote so many goddamn songs for their second album that he used the overflow to work towards his solo debut, now out and called Saturday Night. I'm not sure what Tim Darcy's Saturday nights are like but he must be interesting company when you consider he sounds like Roy Orbison grown up with the yearning kind of disaffection reserved for today's alienated lovelorn – or lovestruck. Then he's backed by a slightly more dapper version of The Velvet Undeground for his gritty pop stompers that allow him to come on all swish and gnarly at the same time. Yes, he's a modern crooner.
Also this week, new tunes from Paul White with Danny Brown, the return of beat guru Edan with hip hoppers Packs, KNX, Dirty Projectors, Animal Collective, new punk prodigies Plaster of Paris, Aldous Harding and The Cactus Channel & Sam Cromack.
Enjoy it all on 2SER,
Holly Throsby – After A Time
Biscotti – Like Heaven In The Movies
Brokeback Illinois River Valley Blues
Tinariwen – Elwan
Moon Duo – Occult Architecture Volume 1
Teen Daze – Themes For Dying Earth
Tobin Sprout – The Universe And Me
Dunes – Bedtime
Ariel Pink & Weyes Blood – Myths 002
Bedroom recordings these days are essentially omnipresent and done right they have their simple and immediate charms for indie pop devotees who like their melodies rough and ready with a little ingenuity that's often also slightly warped. When you get someone like Carla Ori – otherwise known as Melbourne's Biscotti – making a fantasy world from the 4-track, you're really in for a treat. Biscotti's debut album is titled Like Heaven In The Movies, and that's a big hint at her headspace on this record, creating her own pop world with giddiness and glee where some cracking DIY guitar numbers can happily sit alongside a mirthful mash-up of dub, disco, synth-pop and more than just a streak of spaghetti western soundtracks. It's a lot of fun but seriously good, too.
Brokeback, the fab project for Chicago's Douglas McCombs is now two decades in and back with a new album, Illinois River Valley Blues. It's as evocative and widescreen as you might expect from someone whose main gig is in Tortoise and also deeply personal in tracing around memories of growing up along the Illinois River spaning Peoria and Chicago. It's a sweet example of the kind of Americana fostered by the likes of Calexico, conjuring the eclectic sense of possibility from the country's open spaces with a kind of Western feel, elastic swing and cinematic Lynchian-style mood.
Last week we spoke about the immense amount of music being made in Africa and its incredible diversity as exposed through the Awesome Tapes From Africa blog and label. Honest Jon's is another label (co-run by one Damon Albarn) delving deep into this territory and now releasing the self-titled album from long-running Lagos, Nigeria outfit Obadikah. Obidikah have spiritual leanings and are essentially a group of friends who mostly perform in Baptist churches but you need not be in tow to any God to fully immerse yourself in their sound. They have an earth, rootsy take on the traditional brass band set-up with bubbling Afro-rhythms and easy-rolling jazz sensibilities with a tempo and feel akin to classic reggae.
Also this week, more new local tunes from Sydneysiders Gang of Youths, NSW coastal resident Brightness, Brisbane's Tom Cooney and Bendigo's Fountaineer plus an international crew featuring Mac De Marco, Jens Lekman and exciting electronic newcomer Sameed.
Enjoy it all on 2SER,
Priests – Nothing Feels Natural
Homeshake – Fresh Air
Sarah Belkner – But You Are, But It Has
Four Tet – There Is Love In You Remixes
Tim Cohen – Luck Man
Fancey – Love Mirage
Awa Poulo – Poulo Warrali
Oh No – Ultimate Breaks and Beats
Liam Gerner & The Sunset Pushers – Liam Gerner and the Sunset Pushers
Diazpora – Islands
Letherette – Where Have All The People Gone?
The tightly-coiled punk energy and garage-rock punch of Bikini Kill strikes hard on the full-length debut from Washington DC's Priests, but then so does the more sprawling ways of Sletaer-Kinney with the political fire to match. Nothing Feels Natural shows a band willing to take big bites out of the post-punk playbook and chew hard but spit out something fresh and vital once they're done. It's no coincidence they hail from the same city as the seminal Fugazi, who sprung dub and funk patterns with melodic smarts on a devoted audience ever-willing to take the ride. Whatever the influence, Priests ride high on invention and passion, indebted to the song first and foremost.
Awesome Tapes From Africa started as a blog trading on a very different kind of underground – African music released on cassette hawked by street vendors that unless you were there was extremely hard to discover and follow. Brian Shimkovitz, founder of Awesome Tapes From Africa, lived and studied in Ghana for a period and collecting these tapes became ritual for him, devouring highlife, synth-pop, disco and devotional music. He started the blog to share the sounds, but in more recent years, Shimkovitz has taken to releasing the African sounds he particularly loves to the wider western world and his latest unearthing is a display of rare beauty. Hailing from Mali, singer Awa Poulo's latest album Poulo Warrali is wholly beguiling with its tapestry of acoustic guitars and gentle rhythms that seem to float away like a butterfly you could never catch. Poulo's voice is commanding and compelling – she is a vital addition to anyone's love for music from the region.
Sarah Belkner has become a go-to musician and arranger for some of Australia's top-line talent, with Chet Faker, Ngaire and Sarah Blasko seeking out her various vocal and playing talents. She started releasing her own music as Miss Little making graceful vintage-style pop but since going under her own name has put a modern sheen on her intricate songs. Her debut But You Are, But It Has works the electronic-soul-pop hyrbid well with streaks of synth-funk and r n' b bounce, both angular and immediate though never succumbing to trite hooks. Belkner proves most canny on But You Are, But It Has, a bold, upfront work.
Also this week, top new tunes including the return of 90s indie-pop champions The Clouds, another Father John Misty folk-diatribe, Bayonne, Thundercat (with Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins no less), Big Thief, Future Islands, Anohni and another new local, Will Halliday.
Enjoy it all on 2SER,
Son Volt – Notes of The Blue
Botany – Raw Light II
Minor Victories – Orchestral Variations
Gabriel Garzon-Montano – Jardin
Kid Koala – Music To Draw To
Fleece – Voyager
Tornado Wallace - Lonely Planet
Eric Lau – Examples
Bash & Pop – Anything Could Happen
Various Artists – Macondo Revisitado: The Roots of Sub Tropical Music, Uruguay 1975 - 1979
Hip hop heads know the whipcracking mix and scratch style of turntable whizz Kid Koala from Canada all too well but the man acclaimed as one of the world's best behind the decks also does a neat sideline in graphic novels. As if he needed another string to his bow, for his latest project, Music To Draw To, the man known to his Mum and Dad as Eric San plays the instruments (piano, viola, bass) throughout and processes the sounds through his turntable set-up to make an ambient-pop album. It's gorgeously moody stuff and goes down slow in beautiful fashion, aided by the gossamer-light vocal tones of Iceland's Emiliana Torrini. With a gently spacey outlook, repeated listens make this more absorbing with each go round, such is the fine craft and detail on display. One of 2017's first big surprises.
Gabriel Garzon-Montano self-released an EP back in 2012, the result of a lot of planning and toil where he wrote and played every note. After barely making a dent with it outside of his Brooklyn base, everything changed for Garzon-Montano after Drake sampled his vocal and hook from one of the EP's tunes for his own track Jungle in 2016. That's big. He has since shrugged off being a snippet in someone else's hit parade with his debut album on the esteemed Stone's Throw label, Jardin. Beguilingly blending 70s style pop – think AM radio gold such as Todd Rundgren – with soul grooves sprung from the modern day, Jardin's songs also filter in hip hop and psych-tinged funk in sunny, rose-tinted harmony.
Tornado Wallace (it's unconfirmed that's his birth-name) is a producer from Melbourne who also spends quite a bit of time working in Berlin. What hoists him well above the ruck in that mecca for electronic music makers and heads is how he twists his sound more than tweaks it, constantly imaginative and inventive well past the point of the merely cool. His newest set is also his longest after a series of 12-inch singles, a mini-album called Lonely Planet that reportedly took four years to complete. With a rattling bottom end to reckon with, Wallace weaves wavey synth echoes through his signature heavy percussive tracks, both lush and breezy but cut with the right amount of heat to keep things nice and urgent.
Also this week, a veritable slew of singles: new tunes from Dirty Projectors, Emily Wurramarra, Father John Misty, Real Estate, Biscotti, Hurray For The Riff Raff, Oddissee and Peter Black.
Enjoy it all on 2SER,
Flo Morrissey & Matthew E White – Gentlewoman, Ruby Man
Bonobo - Migration
Foxygen – Hang
The xx – I See You
Ty Segall – Ty Segall
Mick Harvey – Intoxicated Woman
Half Japanese – Hear The Lions Roar
Julie Byrne – Not Even Happiness
The Ocean Party – B-Grade Material
The Bats – The Deep Set
Sodastream – Little By Little
Welcome to SERvin' Up! for 2017 – our weekly new music in review.
It's early days for 2017 of course, but we've already been blessed with an album that'll surely still stand tall with its beautiful poise and elegance by year's end. The second album Julie Byrne, Not Even Happiness, works a very lush angle on folk simply through the enveloping feel she conjures from her velvet voice and dense fingerpicking. Byrne's sound is constantly hanging and wonderfully unanchored – no coincidence considering these songs revolve around ideas of transience, Byrne having moved around various states in the US before settling in Brooklyn last year.
If the weird in weird indie-pop is feeling a little too coiffured and commodified for you these days, you'll be happy to know the endearingly knotty Half Japanese have returned with album number 16. Counting the likes of Yo La Tengo and Sonic Youth as lifelong fans – main member Jad Fair even recorded an album with Teenage Fanclub – Hear The Lions Roar is a super serve of their wild riffery couple with raw thought. It's an eccentricity dealt out with a bubblegum pop mindset so they're curiously cuddly at the same time.
Foxygen third album Hang is a crazy but consummate melodic blast from the Californian duo after their decidedly unhinged second We Are The Ambassadors of 21st Century Peace and Magic's songs faltered under the weight of studio wizardry. That hasn't stopped them working with a 40-piece symphony orchestra, not to mention Matthew E White plus members of The Flaming Lips and The Lemon Twigs. It's unashamedly vintage with a serious glam rock tilt, but the orchestral pop, gospel, psych-folk and doo wop flourishes make this a sweet knees-up – one that crazy old uncle of yours might rise from his sherry glass for.
Sodastream are a Melbourne duo who'll be more than familiar to local indie-folk fans of a certain vintage. (ie: the older ones) The pair enjoyed a nice cult following at a time when the rediscovery of the iconic Nick Drake's pastoral visions was peaking. Sodastream's own brand of gentle jazzy folk remains a lovely and airy delight on their first album in a decade, Little By Little. The vagaries of suburbia and its domestic day to day are lyrical staples of younger acts such as Twerps and Dick Diver, however Sodastream saw a magic in the everyday that may well have paid very well into those bands' own inspirations.
Also this week, new singles from Holly Throsby, Sinkane, Tame Impala player Cameron Avery, Nadia Reid, Chicano Batman, PVT, Spoon and the return of 90s shoegazing royalty Slowdive.
Enjoy it all on 2SER,