Category: music

Best Albums of 2011 part 1: 6-10

6. Frank Turner – England Keep My Bones
(Xtra Mile)

This, and the next 5, all swapped and changed for number one. As I re-listen to this album to write this, I just feel like this is a perfect record by an artist at the very top of his game. I started my year watching him at the Annandale. He’s finishing it playing Wembley Arena. That’s quite a year Frank Turner has had.

It’s part Clash, parts Bragg, but all brought up to date. He is the only musician today who has anything interesting to say about the themes of punk (ok, maybe Craig Finn) – but he long ago left the shackles of punk behind. This record is his most eclectic – mixing up folk, gospel, power pop and more.

Line after amazing line, idea after amazing idea. The straight-to-the-point-ness of ‘I Still Believe’ contrasts ‘Glory Hallelujah’, a gospel song celebrating the lack of God. It’s all about believing in the right things.

The other big thread in this album is England. The idea of home, and writing about England, is all over this record. “Wessex Boy”, the a capella “English Curse” and “Rivers” do for England what Springsteen did for Jersey. “If I Stray” seems to sum up both halfs of the record quite nicely.

7. Gillian Welch – Harrow & Harvest
(Acony)

8 years? For this? That’s almost a year a song. It probably says more about how amazing their sounds and songs are that in 8 years away, they are still the top of their game, despite many duos popping up and trying to fill the gap. It helps that they always sounded out of time.

It really is business as usual. Even the nice left turn of drums found on 2003’s ‘Soul Journey’ has gone. Rawlings is still one the best guitarists of his generation. The songs are dark and spooky. Their voices still sound great.

So yeah – more of the same, but that same is still pretty special. “Dark Turn Of Mind” is a highlight. ‘Hard Times’ is perhaps the sweetest thing they’ve ever done. Let’s hope it doesn’t take another 8 years for more.

8. Leader Cheetah – Lotus Skies
(Spunk)

Only one Australian album made my top ten this year. Probably my fault – I wasn’t really paying attention. (And I don’t put mate’s records on these lists, so that discounts a couple….) And amazingly – it’s from Adelaide!

They fit quite clearly in the world that My Morning Jacket, Wilco, Beachwood Sparks and the more experimental rootsy stuff lives. A long, lonesome voice out front recalls Neil Young. But this is far from retro postering. The record is amazingly modern.

And it’s epic. Huge guitars. Big choruses. Clever arrangements. All tied down by that slide guitar. I don’t know why everyone makes a fuss over bands like Boy & Bear, who sound like wannabes, when we have great original country indie rock right here. Oh well.

One of my faves – “Our Lives

9. Arctic Monkeys – Suck It And See
(Domino)

I just like this band. According to Last.fm, out of all the albums from 2011, I’ve listened to this one the most. So they’ve lost none of the magic for me, although I am aware that people have kind of written them off.

In parts it’s almost fun. It’s pretty much the most pop the Arctic Monkeys have ever been. There’s nothing to prove now, and they are just kicking out tunes that interest them.

The first five tracks are just back to back radio hits (in another world). I’m guessing Turner just craps out 3 minute rockers this good all the time. Clever riffs, great lyrics – it’s all there, and never boring. As usual, there are a couple of pretty ballads on here – Piledriver Waltz is the best amongst them.

It might not have the highs of a ‘Crying Lightning’ or something as straightly gorgeous as ‘Cornerstone’, but it’s a sharp consistent record throughout.

10. Paul Simon – So Beautiful Or So What
(Decca)

Every year a really old guy seems to sneak into my top 10. The Dylans and Youngs and the like. 5 years ago it was Simon again – with his fantastic, Eno-produced, ‘Surprise’. That 2006 album was a lively return from his worst record to date (2000’s ‘You’re the One’), and that reinvention continues. Interesting sonics, electric instruments, but a return to songs over rhythm.

On ‘Surprise’, Simon made a concious decision to abandon love songs (no one wants to hear about an old guy having sex, he said), and write about bigger things. God has returned to his song writing in a big way. Big meaning-of-life songs that recall ‘America’, or ‘Sound Of Silence’.

The best song of the lot, the one that has been getting quite a bit of attention, is “Questions For the Angels”. Just a beautifully plucked guitar, and the amazing image of a pilgrim walking over the Brooklyn bridge, and pondering at Jay-Z on a billboard.

At times funny, at times beautiful, we now have a roadmap for the fourth phase of Simon’s career, and the return of a great songwriter.

Continuous Hit Music: The Only Ones – Special View

Continuous Hit Music – a weekly exploration of vinyl finds.

Artist: The Only Ones
Title: Special View
Original Release: 1979
Label: Epic
Store: Egg Records, Newtown, Sydney
Price: $24.99
(Original)

Eggs Records has become an essential part of the Newtown record scene. It has the biggest range of second hand vinyl, and a fine selection it is. Plenty of 70s and 80s stuff – I picked up lots of Replacements vinyl here. Also the originals of all the Wilco records and other great finds. The only shame about Egg is that they certainly know how to price a record.

It’s old school vinyl-ing. The guys go on buying trips around the world. They are always at the record fairs. They sponsor trivia prizes and are generally part of the record community of Sydney, of Australia and beyond.

But onto this record. The Only Ones.

There was actually several years where the first thing I did in a record store was go to the “O” section. Because I was looking for this album and Oasis’s What’s the Story Morning Glory. I have clear memories of finding one with Isabelle in Perth in 1999 or so. I wanted one ever since.

Special View is not actually an album, but a compilation compiled from two albums, and marketed as an album to the US market (they did the same thing for Robbie WilliamsThe Ego Has Landed). And because of that, it is by far the best Only Ones album.

I loved this band for a while. They were looped into the punk scene, but had a great guitar player and a snarly singer, and didn’t seem to just be angry. I always loved the melodic, new wave-y side of punk best, and this was one of the very first albums that started me down that road.

Of course, I came to them through Another Girl, Another Planet, their timeless hit, probably on a compilation like ‘The World’s Greatest Punk Album Ever’. Then everyone seemed to cover the song – most famously for me, the Replacements. The Reservations covered Another Girl, Another Planet many times.

It is just a blistering song. The sly build up, that rush of guitar soloing, and that snarl! Something about girls, something about planets, and maybe something about drugs. It was endlessly hip.

It is by far the best song on the record, but there are some excellent songs that fill this record out. The Whole Of the Law is a very pretty tropicalia love song. Peter And the Pets should have been a hit. And some decent new wave fare in Out There In the Night, City Of Fun and more. It’s better than, say, Blondie.

So after over a decade of hunting for it, I was pretty happy to find this on vinyl, finally. I don’t really listen to the band anymore, but was really happy to revisit it. As far as I know, this record has never been reissued and so this is an original Epic printing (with the awesome Epic label on the record). $24.99 is a pretty Egg records price. Expensive but where else are you going to get it?

Special View has now been superceded by deluxe editions of their three albums, a hits collection and a complete collection. Shame, because lots of American fans, and myself, know and love this album in this order and sequence. And this album cover – once again great.

Oh well. They can erase it from history. I have my copy now.

PS. I saw a reuinited Only Ones on telly a couple of years ago and they looked awful. I could not even fake interest to go.

Continuous Hit Music: Radio Birdman – Radios Appear

Continuous Hit Music – a weekly exploration of vinyl finds.

Artist: Radio Birdman
Title: Radios Appear
Original Release: July 1977 (1978)
Label: Trafalgar
Reissue Label: 4 Men With Beards (2010)
Store: Hum on King Street, Newtown, Sydney
Price: $24.99

Newtown in Sydney, the part of town I’ve been drawn to for all my years in Sydney, has been pretty good with record stores. Even with the fall of CD stores left and right, the three on King Street survived the last five years. Pretty amazing.

HUM is a small chain store, but a pretty hip one. The Newtown store stocks a healthy shelf of new release vinyl, and they keep some in their store window to entice passers by. It’s a good place to pick up something new, say an Arctic Monkeys record. They order a lot and not all of it moves. I found this album in a small pile of lightly discounted new records. The price sticker for $34.99 crossed out and it cost $24.99.

Radio Birdman. You know, of all those underground 80s Australian bands, the Birdman are not my favourites. I guess I leaned towards the wussier side of things – Go-Betweens and that. But they are as good a raw and dirty rock band as any produced, anywhere in the world. And this album, their debut, has some of their signature songs – New Race and Aloha Steve & Danno are probably the ones people have heard of. Both blistering pieces of rock. But there are longer, dirge-ier moments and I have to confess, that stuff loses me sometimes.

Still, this is the record I reach for when I want to hear Birdman. Anglo Girl Desire. Their cover of You’re Gonna Miss Me. Non Stop Girls. Damn this is a good record. I would even say this album is a better introduction than any of the best-ofs out there.

I discovered Birdman, along with 50 other important bands, from Clinton Walker‘s wonderful book Stranded. They are given great importance in that book as being pioneers. Pretty interesting that they missed out completely from Triple J’s recent Hottest 100 Australian albums poll. It made number 13 in the book The 100 Greatest Australian Albums.

This version is actually the international tracklisting and cover. I want to be a stickler for the original Australian version – but I just can’t. Just look at that beautiful album sleeve. It is just the best. Possibly the best Australian album cover ever. And whoever looks after their catalogue should be shot. It takes Americans to reissue and take care of their music. The original might be a bit more pure, but this version cuts out a stooges cover and adds Aloha… so as sacrilegious as it sounds, this is my version of this record. And it’s the one I grew up with.

4 Men With Beards are an interesting vinyl reissue label. I am seeing their logo on more and more releases. And they have pretty great tastes. Velvets, Gainsbourg, Burrito Brothers – really evergreen stuff. Their stuff also sounds really great, their records are sturdy and their print work is top notch. This record comes with an insert – I don’t know if it’s a recreation of the original but it’s nice. Pretty happy that there’s a lot of 4 Men stuff getting into the country. (The sleeve says the record is manufactured by Rhino – so perhaps 4 Men are really just facilitators?)

I don’t think this record, this reissue is particularly rare. But I’m pretty thrilled to own this record on vinyl – if only for that awesome album cover looking in all it’s glory. Let the Birdman fly, eh?

Wk30: Live Forever – Sequels, Reunions, Franchises and the never ending story.

Superman returns...again...and again

Disturbing numbers coming out of Hollywood. There will be a record for sequels this year – a whopping 28. It’s a figure that has rising steadily in the past few years. More disturbingly, things like Harry Potter 7b (essentially an 8), Fast Five, X-Men First Class (essentially another 5), etc makes the average sequel number 3.7.

How did we get here? Franchises seem to live forever these days. And maybe it has to do with digital technology making everything available. It’s never been easier to catch up one something.

Take reunions. With a band like Pulp in the CD era, people would have put away their CD copies of Different Class, occasionally bringing it out for nostalgia. In the era of iPods, many lapsed Pulp fans can carry around Pulp songs in their pockets every single day.

Every band in history is on equal footing. Every album ever made might as well be a new release. They are all equally easy to find. No wonder there is so much money in reunion shows. I’m not sure if bands can even break up anymore. Looks at artists like Pavement or the Pixies. Despite disappearing, their popularity never waned. They reunited to equal, if not bigger, audiences than ever.

Stock issues are disappearing. The idea that a record can fall out of print is outdated. In the 90s and the 00s, it was kinda hard to get Pixies albums in Australia (compared to say Britney).

There are a bunch of golden albums that used to never go out of print, and would be discovered by every generation. Be it Tapestry for thoughtful young women, or the first Violent Femmes album for nerdy young boys. And even the smallest CD store would stock them. Now there is no such thing. Every album is a golden album ripe for rediscovery.

I used to carry CDs in my school bag. I’d fill it with anything I might want to listen to. But no school bag can fit as much as an iPod. And soon those iPods will be streaming from an infinite harddrive in a cloudy sky.

The same used to apply to old movies. From hoping something would be re-run on TV to searching for a DVD at a shop. There was always limits. But no more. There is an infinite database of films online.

Which is why sequels work better than ever. I have friends who have just caught up on all seven Harry Potter films in just the weeks leading up to the 8th. It is the reason films like Fast Five can exist. Because Fast One to Four are so easy to get.

It goes on. Look at reboots. The first Scream movie never fell into an oldies film. Freddie Krueger never died. Even Wall Street was given a sequel 23 years later. Why invent a new brand to discuss the financial crisis? Just use the one that everyone still talks about.

Then there’s good old “nerdstalgia”. Transformers used to be so 80s. Now it’s the biggest franchise there is today. This year, both the Muppets and the Smurfs are back on the big screen. Nothing ever dies.

TV Shows of course fall into the same category. Although huge gaps exist, so many TV shows live online. Most are at unreasonable prices, but hey, that’s how you give birth to a piracy market.

You can always catch up to the story. Season 4 of Breaking Bad is out and you’ve not seen the first 3? It’s really not a problem anymore. Hell, you could have been waiting to be born when the first Harry Potter film came out and you’re probably the target audience for the new one.

Slightly ironic that the very first physical format – print – is the last to drag itself into the digital world. But you can see it going the same way as it’s louder and brighter cousins. Books will never go out of print. They will be instantly accessible to anyone who wants them. The stories will never get old.

This new world brings with it some new concerns. Making something that’s timeless pays off. Flash in the pan also never dies, but who’s going to be looking for it? You don’t need to go back at watch some shit network sitcom because they still make those. But the Sopranos will remain timeless.

What happens to plot twists. I don’t know how it would feel to try and watch Lost now. I think it’s widely known that the ending was a let down. With a show so structured towards an ending, does it lose something?

Then there is the big fight over copyright issues, and when things fall into the public domain. When the UK write copyright rules that allowed people to own their music for 50 years, no one thought Paul McCartney would be one year away from losing the rights to Love Me Do. Or, indeed that ANYTHING 50 years old would have any value.

Public Domain is a funny thing. And I think, on the whole, if something falls into Public Domain, it is terrible for that thing. Because the old arguments about it being free and easy to access are gone. We have solved the access issue. And it just means anyone can make money off someone’s work. No one is going to give it to you for free.

(One of my favourite movies ever – Charade – is one of the more interesting copyright cases around. Many cheap DVDs are no better than people filming shaky cameras in a theatre. But it’s legal to sell that. Proper prints with decent quality are hard to find because they are hard for anyone to sell any.)

The UK are seeking an extension to be in line with the US – 100 years (or so). There needs to be a worldwide consensus because we are dealing with the worldwide web. There is an argument that those rules need to be more lax (in regards to thing like sampling). But really – do they not imagine another Muppets movie in 50 years time? Maybe 100 is not enough.

Are we ever going to forget anything again?

Reboots have become part of our popular culture now. I think the idea was perfected in the comic book world. Bit reboots are getting sooner and sooner. Including the upcoming Avengers film, there will be three Hulks in ten years. Each one a reboot to some degree.

I find it interesting that people can just decide that OK, we are now starting again. Forget the past. This is a new Star Trek. This is a new Spiderman. Is anything sacred?

Franchises are worth more and more. Bands reform to take advantage of it. What happens when HBO realises that another generation has discovered the Sopranos? Will they remake that too?

It’s all up for grabs. Nothing ever dies. The idea that they could recast Star Trek means that they can recast anything. Imagine Star Wars movies picking up after Return Of the Jedi. Why not? We are getting new Spidermen, Supermen and Hulks. The next Batman movie is not even out and they have already announced a reboot to follow. Anything to keep the brand alive.

Try to imagine a situation where they would cancel the Simpsons. They could replace the voices. Get in a whole team of new young writers and producers. Reinvent the show for a new current audience. Use technology to make it cheaper to make. Really, maybe that show will outlive me. And all of us.

With so much information out there, the problem is not finding entertainment. It’s finding something you like. Filters will be the next big thing.

What do my friends recommend. What lists tell me what the greatest movies are. What the hell should I watch next?

It is the next big question in our cultural lives.

http://www.npr.org/2011/07/01/137502459/hollywoods-got-a-bad-case-of-sequelitis-this-year

The Best Albums of 2011 (so far): 1-5

So part two of our two part round up of the year’s best albums so far.

Some other things to note about the year. I am sticking to the album format for these lists, even though my favourite song this year is by far (BY FAR) Think You Can Wait by the National, from the soundtrack to Win, Win. Also the EP by the UK band the Mummers, Mink Hollow Road, which found the strange meeting place of Todd Rundgren and Judy Garland.

But this list is about album, and a couple have really let me down. Voluntary Butler Scheme followed up their charming debut with an album that sounds like a tape player getting stuck. Nonsense, sampled drivel. The Danger Mouse led project ROME was similar. When did albums become about space to meander nowhere? The glow of a new REM album evaporates faster than ever. Bell X1 and Beady Eye both made average albums. Panic At the Disco is right back to being shit.

But lots didn’t make this list. Wagons. Those Darlins. Miles Kane. The Del McCoury Band. Elbow. Yuck.

Anyway – here’s five more that did.

1. Noah And the Whale – Last Night On Earth

This came out of nowhere. I own both previous N&TW records, and spent some time with them. The last one was a bit boring, and I figured that would be it for me and this band. Then I saw that brilliant album cover. It’s the best album cover of the year. Cool, urban, hip, stylish, modern and classic.

And the record is something special. It’s like a dancier version of the Velvets. Every track is fun and goes somewhere. Huge hooks and sounds great. And that thing I love most – that sense that music can save us, our lives can be better, that life is to be lived. The Clash had it, You Am I have it, the Replacements have it, etc. And they’ve tapped into it here.

It is a real step up from their last one, which was a depressing drag. This album is about stepping up and enjoying every moment.

 

2. Frank Turner – England Keep My Bones

(Epitaph)

I have loved Frank Turner’s music for the last few years. It’s right up my alley – Joe Strummer, Billy Bragg, Springsteen. But he is also my age and around now. Singing about hipsters and Thatcher and not knowing anyone who plays slide guitar – made it mean a lot more to me than ghosts of protest singers past.

His new album is as good as anything he’s ever done. Hugely anthemic and all about believing in music and us. There is absolutely no irony here. Take the single “I Still Believe”, which under lesser hands would seems cringeworthy.

Frank Turner is fucking awesome. Punk rock for now people. It seems I keep going back to this stuff, and when it comes to this stuff, Frank Turner is pretty much the best there is.

 

3. Arctic Monkeys – Suck It And See

(Domino)

Another band I already loved. The press have been calling this album a mix between their last two Humbug and Favourite Worse Nightmare. It’s kind of true. There is the stoner rock riffing of their last album, with a bit more of the pop hooks that made them chart toppers in the first place.

But it’s a RAGGED record. It’s loose. Some of the tight, sudden arrangements from the last two records are gone. It’s their most throwaway pop album. Maybe it’s because Alex Turner has turned into a more conventional songwriter. Maybe they are just having fun (I mean, with that title and cover…)

So, I miss some of those jagged corners. But what is there is brilliant. And once again, there is a lot of sex on this record. And Turner has not lost his way with words.

And in the end, the slow songs are best. Love Is A Laserquest, Reckless Serenade and the re-recorded Piledriver Waltz (originally on the Submarine Soundtrack) shine brightest. Some really pop moments. It’s what pot will do to you. I wish they would try and piss people off again, but they are allowed some fun.

 

4. Eddie Vedder – Ukulele Songs

(Universal)

It’s no small feat to make a 16 track album with barely anything but a ukulele and Eddie Vedder’s singular voice and not make it sound samey. Instead it sounds really lovely. Who knew you could do this with just a ukulele?

In the right hands the ukulele is a very pretty instrument. Seems like Vedder has the right hands. Songs like You’re True, Without You and Satellite a touching ballads. His songs tend towards the torch song tradition, using interesting and dramatic chords to break things up.

Then there are a couple of belters. How do those strings not break? Can’t Keep never lets up. Some well chosen covers – Sleepless Nights, Dream A Little Dream – add to the casual air. And though it’s 16 tracks, it’s less than 35 minutes all up.

It’s a dreamy, nostalgic record. I imagine festival campfire singalongs will go mad for this stuff (unfortunately). But I’ve just kept going back to it over and over again this year. And I give him credit for doing something low key and left field rather than a shit, chart topping solo album.

 

5. The Damnwells – No One Listens To the Band

(Pledge Music)

If this was 1999, the Damnwells would be friggin huge. OK, not huge, but they would have a couple of huge singles and probably fall away like the Gin Blossoms, Buffalo Tom or Semisonic. It’s the space they fill – earnest, straight and slightly needy college American rock.

It’s almost retro their sound. But it’s great – if you loved that stuff. And I did. Something very sad sack about it, inevitably about or directed at pretty women with broken hearts, dashed off with that Springsteen escapism I love so much.

So much rock fun to be had (with a lilting sadness, or course). The single Werewolves. I can’t even type the title She Goes Around without that wonderful chorus echoing through my brain. Most beautiful of all is the Great Unknown with the obligatory ballad side getting a go. Another most excellent, solid record adding to a solid discography.

The Best Albums of 2011 (so far): 6-10

I’ll be honest. My time for new music this year has not been great. Between going back to lots of old stuff (Loudon Wainwright III, R.E.M. and Cold Chisel mainly) and catching up on a lot of TV, time for music has not been what it once was.

Maybe it’s not just me. Seems like previous years, the year always kicked off with some big records – Vampire Weekend, Spoon, etc. Maybe it’s work too. Having not really worked on any new music that has excited me has sent me packing to my old collection mostly.

And finally, a couple of really terrible records have let me down. More about that in part 2, coming soon.

Anyway – here’s a list – parts 6-10.

6. Jonny – Jonny

(Merge)

This is fun. Take somewhat wacky wordsmith Euros Child from Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and match him with Norman Blake, the elder statesman of popcraft from Teenage Fanclub. What you get is Jonny, both band and album. Both band and album are lighthearted, silly, lovely, charming and so British.

You can hear the joy on every track. Garage rock-lite (in a good way) of Wich Is Wich and Candyfloss. Crazy psych fun of Goldmines and Cave Dance. And the truly touching English Lady.

 

7. D Rogers – Natural Disasters

(popboomerang)

Dave Rogers is the former guitar player for Melbourne pop group Klinger. His new album is a lovely low key look at modern living. My friend Paul once described the type of song that was like a good pair of tailored trousers. Something to wear out every day. That’s what this album is. Every day songs.

It’s all about the songs. The slight country twinge and the piano twinkles add texture but don’t get in the way. Rogers sings about stuff like  unpaid bills and dishes. There’s a theme of money going through the album – Pay To Pay, Buyer’s Remorse. There’s even a song called Food & Electricty.

Not to say that this is some stylised study of urban living. It’s really just a great bunch of songs with no pretentions. It’s all wrapped up in some killer choruses (Breaking Bones is a highlight) and tasteful production. If you like the Pernice Brothers, et al, you’d probably love this.

 

8. Emmy the Great – Virtue

(Close Harbour Records)

Emmy the Great makes lovely, full bodied indie pop. Sort of Regina-ry, sort of Laura Marling-ish, all mixed together. Virtue is a major step up. It’s gotten remarkable reviews. If any of the many radio courting songs on here actually gets away, we have a hit on our hands.

So the big story of this record is that young Emmy was engaged, until her fiance discovered God and the relationship broke down. According to articles and interviews, it’s all over this album. I guess it’s there, but it’s more about her and dealing with a new life, and transcending something. It’s probably best heard on A Woman, A Woman, A Century Of Sleep.

There’s some digs at religion (I think). Lovely plays on words throughout, and some killer tunes. I just keep thinking this is a major record, and I hope people hear it.

 

9. Paul Simon – So Beautiful So What

(Hear Music)

The opening couplet of Questions For the Angels, one of the new tracks on here, is as brilliant as anything Paul Simon has done.

A pilgrim on a pilgrimage

Walked along the Brooklyn Bridge

Like America, or dozens of others of his masterpieces, Simon taps into something eternal, and puts it in a modern context. Sure, it’s been decades since he has been relevant – his career sidelined to that place that oldies go when they don’t get played on radio or make the cover of magazines anymore. But he can still mention Jay-Z and crossing rivers in one song and make it all work.

So Beautiful Or So What is actually the first album of a new record deal. His last, Eno-produced, album was a reinvention and a reinvigoration. It continues here. A renewed sense of song, and his own mandate of not writing about love anymore (claiming it’s creepy to hear from someone his age) leads to him playing on bigger themes. The Love he talks about on this record is more spiritual.

There’s a bit of that restless experimenting he is so good at. His sense of a smooth rhythm is still there, as is his guitar work (the lovely Dazzling Blue is filled with tasteful electric guitar). Hopefully another step into a lovely late career renaissance.

 

10. Gillian Welch – The Harrow & The Harvest

(Acony)

8 years? Has it been so long? I love the first 4 Gillian Welch albums. Obsessed over them. And 8 years later, we finally have a fifth. The entire world has changed, and Gillian and partner David Rawlings haven’t.

This record only just came out and after many frantic listens though, it’s as good as I hoped. It is slightly disappointing that the loose band sound of Soul Journey has been forgotten for a straighter, acoustic affair. They’ve somehow gone backwards in their sound. But that’s what they’re about, I guess.

There’s that unsaid spookiness of their early records that are back in force here. Just what is it about Scarlet Town that isn’t right? Or who is that person in The Way It Will Be that deserves such hate? As usual, weird shit is going down.

Maybe it’s just the joy of having new music that has propped this album up. Let’s see what time will bring. But this album is not short on all the things I look for in a Gillian Welch record.

The below is from 2004, and the song has not changed. Waited 7 years for this! Crazy.

GIG: July 7th – The Union, Newtown + album update

Watching the drums tracking

Casey and I are doing another of our sporadic acoustic Reservations shows on 7th July at the Union in Newtown. It’s a new thing the pub has put on to support local, original music, and has been going quite well. On the night we will be opening for Dusty Ravens and Simon + Alannah from the great Australian jangle pop band the Hummingbirds. Very exciting!

Casey and I will be performing lots of songs from the upcoming Reservations album. By the time of the 7th, we will hopefully be almost done, and might even have a track to give away on the night (fingers crossed).

Drums for 7 songs were recently recorded at Michael Carpenter’s Love HZ studio. It is a great room, and Michael has been involved, on some level, with everything I’ve worked on (I think). Paul Andrews, of Lazy Susan, who played on our last album, also played drums here and did a great job.

The songs recorded were – Show You My City, Adventure!, Victoria I, I Just Wanna See You, Joe Strummer, The Bedford Arms and one as-yet untitled song. I am considering posting the song and let friends suggest names. One just isn’t coming to me.

And the album name is like that as well at the moment. Whatever the name, the album will be out around August/September. If you want to listen to or download the two previous albums, you can find them here – http://thereservations.bandcamp.com/ – FREE as well, if you want them to be.

Oh, and finally, the Union gig is also FREE. And starts at 7:30, so it’s a “worksafe” event. Come support music in the inner west, eh?

Comparing worldwide camping festival prices.

OK. So this can be a bit controversial. But let me explain.

There has been a lot of talk in Australia about festival prices. Big Day Out did not sell out this year, and Splendour in the Grass did not sell out in a day, for the first time in years. Both have other factors (BDO was two days, Splendour had computer issues) to consider. Nothing is that black and white.

But what does annoy me, what really gets to me, is people telling me “that’s just how much things cost”. People accept prices because they don’t shop around.

So I’ve been talking to people recently about festival costs. There’s a lot of bad feeling out there. There also seems to be strong feelings about the cost. And lots of excuses – “it would cost you more to fly to Glastonbury”. “Bands have to fly here”.

So in the face of opinion, we have fact. And hard data.

So how much does a festival cost?

Well. Here you go.

These prices are based on the following factors:

– all are camping music festivals lasting 3 or 4 days
– one ticket for all days of the festival
– camping for all days
– one car
– no early bird discounts
– a small handful I could not find the booking fees, and took a 10 euro estimate.
– all currency exchanges done by my little dashboard app. Blame that.

What isn’t included

– who’s playing
– festival size
– how many stages
– how to get there
– quality of the facilities
– other aesthetic factors.

The reasoning is this – how much does a music fan pay for the festival experience? People go to festivals for many reasons, not just music. And not everyone wants to see Kanye West (something that has come up a lot lately). So for everyone who says Kanye costs extra, there are those who don’t care to pay for Kanye. So acts could not be taken into account.

(I personally quite like Kanye. And I would argue that most people go for the festival itself, rather than picking too much over the line-up)

And I’m not taking the view of how much it costs for Australians to go to a festival. I’m comparing Australians to music fans around the world. I would say our CDs are a bit more expensive than most, but of course it’s more expensive to ship it from the UK.

Of course, Australia has it’s own unique issues. Distance. The strength of our currency. The size of the country. But those are all industry issues.

What about the Music Fan?

But it’s comparing Music Fan Person in Aus, and one in, say, France. And how much it costs to be part of the festival experience. Who has it better?

What do we learn?

The average price of a festival is $284.

Australia and the UK dominate the top.

Some festivals have started to offer a price with no hidden charges. No additional camping fees, no hidden booking charges etc. I like this a lot – I hope it catches on. Booking fees, although quite standard, are a pain in the ass.

It also seems quite difficult to buy tickets. Some you get taken to external websites. You have to tick various boxes to suit your situation – which camp site. Parking. Camping.

Some sold out festivals were quite hard to find the price. But some still list prices for a very good reason – to prevent scalping. If you know the list price is £170 pounds, it makes it easier to spot some third party adding to your price.

And finally – it is glaring how much more expensive Splendour in the Grass and Falls are. A common thought amongst Australian music fans is – I’ll save up and do festivals properly in Europe. The other side is also a problem. Those European festivals draws tourism. Backpackers from abroad are asked to pay more for festivals than anywhere else.

I know there’s a hundred reasons for it to be this way. Sure.

But are we acceoting that blindly, or is there a way to bring the cost down? Is bringing the cost down even on anyone’s mind? Most people seem unhappy with the price, but many still pay it.

Maybe the Australian dollar will help. Maybe we’ll finally get hybrid planes. Or if a couple more festivals happen there will be more competition.

Right now, for whatever reason, we pay a lot for festivals.

(Any errors or inaccuracies, please let me know and I will be happy to update)

Gig: 07/05/2011 – w/The Aerial Maps @ the Basement

I have joined Sydney band The Aerial Maps as a bassplayer and general all-rounder. I am playing my first gig with them this coming Saturday at the Basement in Circular Quay.

You can buy tickets here – http://www.moshtix.com.au/event.aspx?id=46046

The Aerial Maps formed a few years back and released an album – the Blinding Sunlight. It really captured something Adam (lead Aerial Mapper) and I have talked about a lot. An Australian sound. That darkness of space. That brightness of heat. I played bass and keys for Adam’s old band – Modern Giant. I was stoked to be asked back.

We are launching a new Aerial Maps single – The Sunset Park

It’s taken from an album, also called The Sunset Park, due out on July 1st, on Popboomerang Records. The album is something else. I am very excited to play on these songs.

The gig this Saturday is a showcase night for the entire Popboomerang label (link). The Melbourne label is run by Scott Thurling, a true music fan and a friend for many years. The label is about to take off.

The Maps are filled out by really talented players. AJ, Sean and Simon make up the rest of the “core”. Andy, Alanna (Simon’s cohort from the Hummingbirds days) round it out, with Adam, of course, up the front.

There are other acts on the bill. I’m most excited about seeing Russell Crawford again. A great songwriter who is actually a great drummer. Drummers don’t usually make great songwriters, but when they do, they always make something special. Also there’s Mark Lang, of Skipping Vinegar Girl. I’ve heard a lot of good things about this Melbourne band, and will be good to see Mark solo.

This is the only Aerial Maps show for months. And it will be a fun night.

http://theaerialmaps.bandcamp.com/

Setlist: 24/04/2011

Danny Yau and Tim Byron

24/04/2011

The Annandale Hotel

1. Howard Fucked the Kids (Frank Turner cover … sort of) *
2. The Bedford Arms *
3. Messy *
4. I’ll Show You My City *
5. Last Time Around
6. I Keep Waking Up
7. Done With Love
8. The Body
9. Joe Strummer
10. The Galaxy Song
11. It’s Time To Go

* Danny Yau solo