In 2007 an online music site provided the means of a chance meeting between Julie Stenton and Kat Borghetti. Their friendship evolved into folk duo Ruby for Lucy and the creation of this, their debut release.
The EP (it’s not quite an album, as two of the nine tracks last less than a minute) is as much a deep conversation between dear friends as a collection of songs. Whimsical tales explore the poetry that exists below the surface of everyday life, if only you bother to look. The beautiful lead vocals, which sound uncannily like Jessie Vintila from The Lucky Wonders, have the quality of being able to evoke either joy or sorrow with equal skill. In Grandma’s House, about leaving a friend behind, you’d be convinced that the singer was on the verge of tears. The sweet tone of Sentimental Porcelain brings to mind the style of folkies Tinpan Orange. Simple but infectious melodies, spun by the duo’s acoustic guitars, bring the alluring quality of the lead vocals and harmonies to the fore. The one quality the EP lacks is variety, as the same vocal style and tempo is used on most tracks, making it almost ‘too pretty’. The only song that moves faster than a walking pace is the sprightly title track, which is a highlight.
Everything about the release is a work of art, from the exquisite cover to the environmentally friendly, plastic-free disk cover, which holds the CD in place with a cool egg-crate and cork creation.
This album has already been lambasted for marking the end of the gently beautiful Sufjan Stevens of Illinois and applauded for being another boldly unconventional evolution for a truly unique musician. First it must be said that the Stevens of Illinois is not gone. At the heart of this album lie the same profoundly human expressions of self that have always tugged the heartstrings. And the melodies are as peculiarly alluring as ever. However, to say The Age of Adz is even close to business as usual is a vast underestimation. Woven into each track, tethering piece to piece and slathered over the top of this album are an unusual and almost overwhelming plethora of orchestral and electronic trimmings, from bubbling flutes to booming synth. Few sounds are left in their natural state, as though Stevens has endeavoured to be as meddlesome as possible, daring listeners to keep pace. Is it self-indulgent? Well, the last track is over 25 minutes long. But it’s not inaccessible. It’s as poignant and mesmerizing as anything Stevens has done. However, I did work hard to connect with this album through the bizarre medley of sounds Stevens revels in. Stevens’ past work is so easily relatable that I found myself unexpectedly challenged, but the challenge was welcome. The scope is broader, but worth it. Still, no one should be able to get away with a 25-minute track unless its pure genius, and Stevens’ isn’t. Yet.
Once in a while, an indie band sheds their generic rock roots, and strikes out to create music of a unique, exciting and new variety – The Holidays are one such band. Post Paradise, the debut album from the Sydney four-piece, is a collection of swooney, summer pop tracks that combine electro grooves and indie tunes to create an ambience that can not be matched.
Singles Moonlight Hours and Golden Sky are ripe with catchy pop lyrics and excellent hooks, while more stripped back tracks like 6am manage to display frontman Simon Jones’ vocals perfectly. All ten tracks on the album are sonically addictive, with the sing-along chorus on 2day proving to be impossible to get out of your head.
There is no denying that The Holidays are incredibly musically talented, and each track manages to display their new style to perfection without sounding repetitive.
Despite some lyrical clichés, overall Post Paradise creates a narrative of escapism and the search for a utopian lifestyle, set to a backdrop of sunshine-laden pop that is perfect for summer days spent lying outside, with nothing but relaxation on the horizon.
One of the most rewarding gigs I’ve seen was Mogwai at Sydney’s Metro Theatre in 2006, because I seem to enjoy a particular musical dynamic predicated on aching build-ups and sustained joyous release. This kind of thing happens in similarly pleasurable areas in life, and I guess Mogwai is attuned to capturing certain urges in musical form, although not quite as you would expect. There has always been something a tad unsettling about the sounds emanating from this ultra-atmospheric band where an illumination of the dark heart through intense emotional expression is built on a turbulent soft/loud equation, and the soft part is as compelling as the noise whiteout. Each of the band’s seven studio albums explores this particular aesthetic in a consistently rewarding manner, and so it goes that a live album in the right environs will leak the good stuff which one would expect from a band on top of its game. This eleven track performance was recorded with the minimum of fuss, yet with fireworks in the right places, in a smallish venue in Brooklyn in 2009. It includes sense stimulating highlights from a first-rate body of work, and demonstrates that when you hit upon a good thing stick with it, as the ironically titled and more recent I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead crosses paths with raging epic Mogwai Fear Satan from the very early Young Team album. And I wanted to be there.
The Balance CD series has provided a platform for some of the most exciting international dance music producer/DJs to dig into the dark depths of their record collections and provide listeners with a unique insight into their avant-garde persona; and German ‘percussive funk’ legend Timo Maas’ effort is no different.
The most appealing attribute of the Balance format is that it gives the artist two discs in which to build a club symphony. On Disc One, Maas weaves us through a morning chorus into stellar tracks like Solvent - Lost for Words (Vector Lovers Remix), Deetron - Sing, The Crystal Ark - The city never sleeps and one of my all time favourites, the classic Danny Tenaglia - Elements. The throbbing hum of the finale leads us into Disc Two, where Maas ramps it up into full club mode.
The evilly haunting Mutant Clan (one of Maas’ side projects) remix of Mark Romboy and Stephan Bodzin - Luna wastes no time in getting its groove on, setting the scene for a more housey techno sound. This is perpetuated by Alex Dolby and Santos - To be Large and The Mole - Nervous Disid before the disc slowly shifts back into early morning techno with several more Mutant Clan originals and re-edits. Maas closes off the epic two hour performance with a hands in the air redux of Placebo - Ashtray Heart, a fitting end to an impressive journey.
Phil Collins is a vastly underrated drummer. Probably more famous as the cheeky chap out front of Genesis who had a few solo hits, especially that one with the big air drum solo, he played on seminal albums by Brian Eno (Another Green World) and John Cale (Helen of Troy). Look, he’s no hack. Then there’s his baldness. In an industry where hirsute is king, fair play to the short bald man. OK, so that’s all well and good, but is this album of traditionalist Motown covers any good? Yes and no. Collins has always professed a love for soul standards, even charting with a well chosen cover in the ‘80s (You Can’t Hurry Love) so this isn’t some late career revisionist cash-in a la Rod Stewart or Barnsey.
Still, we shouldn’t be expecting it to reach the stratospheric heights of the source material – Collins middling warble hits its fair share of notes but cannot possibly match Smoky Robinson’s (Going to a Go-Go) rich velvet croon or Stevie Wonder’s (Uptight) propulsive hot wail. This is Collins’ vanity project – not quite 100% blue eyed soul, but he’s having fun so good for him. On the other side of the ledger, the playing is incredible. You can thank three parts of the legendary Funk Brothers, who appear on every track for that, lifting Going Back release from ‘yawn’ to ‘alright, pretty decent’. Of course, hunt down the originals every single time.
2010 has been a great year in the world of melodic hard rock and heavy metal, but, just when your reviewer was starting to think about end of year polls, and what was in with a chance of topping the bill from a slew of great releases, this album arrived, and required a complete reframing of the market.
In case you are wondering – and you should be – Allen Lande isn’t a man, but the earth-shatteringly good agglomeration of two of modern metal’s great voices – Symphony X throatsmith Russel Allen and BMA’s favourite metallic voice du jour, Jorn Lande (geddit?) – in one gloriously pompous and overblown package.
Christ on a bike, the opening one-two of the title track and the spine-tingling Judgement Day is good enough, and almost certainly worth the price of admission on its own, but The Showdown just won’t stop. Like I said, there have been some great albums released in this field this year, but none of them can reach the level of consistent brilliance that Lande and Allen manage to purvey here. Both men sing their absolute arses off (though if it comes to push and shove I’d pick Lande to sing for me if my life depended on it), whether it be out and out metal or on some utterly splendid ballads (Bloodlines has to be the greatest song AOR titans Journey never wrote). Very, very exciting stuff.