EP REVIEW: SWIMWEAR (DAPPLED CITIES’ TIM DERRICOURT) – HIGH SUMMER

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Dappled Cities’ Tim Derricourt has already dipped his toes into side-project waters with the release of two EPs under the moniker Swimwear.

His latest, High Summer, offers up a book-end to the previous Low Summer EP and also celebrates the hot season with some bittersweet dance music via indie-pop sounds.

The songs are not a huge departure from the Dappled Cities style, all sounding like they’ve been orchestrated by someone who has dug through old vinyl recordings by David Bowie and the Pet Shop Boys. ‘Heartbroken’ sounds quite warm and joyful considering the track’s dour title, and gives a good indication of Derricourt’s desire to mix up tone and style. On ‘Great Leaps Forward’, his voice vacillates between a quivering falsetto and a deeper croon over the top of some shimmery beats-driven pop.

‘Closer’ is the EP’s most unique track, where the sound of Django Django is mashed with repetitive computer bleeps and bloops before the piece rapidly diverts towards the beautiful terrain hinted at in New Order’s ‘Elegia’.

High Summer is like that blissful moment just before the bartender calls for last drinks. It’s a relaxed, sweet and gorgeous place where the night feels so grand that it has the potential to go on forever.

Originally published on 23 March 2016 at the following website: http://thebrag.com/music/swimwear-high-summer

Visit The Brag’s homepage at: http://thebrag.com/

EP REVIEW: DAN SULTAN – DIRTY GROUND

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Dan Sultan’s latest EP Dirty Ground draws together a collection of demos and outtakes from his latest Blackbird record, all tracked in a single day.

The six songs actually have a lot more in common with The Beatles’ song of the same name, because here Sultan moves away from his soulful rock’n’roll sound to focus on raw, stripped-back folk music.

The title track is outstanding, an aching ballad co-written with Paul Kelly that manages to be both catchy and relatable. The same cannot be said for ‘Mountaintop’, which was co-written with Paul Dempsey. It sees Sultan’s beautiful, smoky voice pleading with the listener, but it also contains overly simplistic and repetitive lyrics delivered with a quiet hush, making it too sparse.

‘The Same Man’ and the piano ballad ‘Gullible Few’ originally appeared on Blackbird, but the former – written in Nashville – is offered here in an acoustic version. Both are solid inclusions to the collection.

Dirty Ground sees Sultan produce some mature, emotional and honest songs that will charm fans who like it best when he plays the humble storyteller.

Originally published on 2 December 2014 at the following website: http://thebrag.com/music/dan-sultan-dirty-ground

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EP REVIEW: THE LOVE JUNKIES – FLIGHT TEST

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Flight Test, the follow-up to The Love Junkies debut LP, should be called “mix tape”, as it’s one varied experiment of solo and group tunes that are difficult to pigeonhole.

The WAM (Western Australian Music) winners wrote, recorded, and mixed the EP in the foothills of Perth. The result is five honest tracks that explore some similar musical themes to earlier recordings; they could be written by a dispirited slacker, a snotty, troublesome punk, or a bouncing Brit-popster in equal measure.

‘Intro’ was a solo effort that Mitch McDonald conceived after a big night, a song that is surprisingly delicate, dazzling, and one altogether spacious epic.

The boys return to what they know best on ‘Chemical Motivation’. This starts out like some sweet and sunny indie-pop honey before proceedings turn to blistering rock not unlike British India.

This immediate, incendiary, and youthful energy also underpins ‘Blowing On The Devil’s Strumpet’, where McDonald vents his frustration at an annoying love interest amidst a loud cacophony of pounding drums, raspy vocals, and some Children Collide-esque rock.

‘Gloria To My Dysphoria’ sounds like it belongs on another record; it’s a poppy piano ballad that begins as a vocal piece, written by drummer Lewis Walsh.

Flight Test sees different emotions, ideas, and circumstances beaten together by multiple writers where the only commonality is a “dark” vibe. There are softer moments but mostly, The Love Junkies are about balls-out, ear-burning rock that bleeds.

Originally published on 9 April 2014 at the following website: http://www.tonedeaf.com.au/reviews/new-music/397278/flight-test.htm

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EP REVIEW: THE CITY LIGHTS “(SHE’S GOT) MY NAME & MY NUMBER” B/W THE EXILE CO. “FAY RAY”

citylights The split EP by The City Lights and The Exile Co. (formerly The Exiles) sounds like an English band and an American band meeting in a bar for a musical play-off. The two groups are label mates and Sydneysiders. They’re also releasing a 7-inch EP that celebrates being young, footloose and fancy-free and all while nodding at two nostalgic eras in time and two rather interesting periods in music. The first cut is “(She’s Got) My Name & My Number” by The City Lights and is a two-and-a-half minute story about a dangerous, unrequited love. Instead of Romeo & Juliet our star-crossed lovers are a mod and a skinhead (although given the former period, a rocker may have been more appropriate). It’s also a match that is a fiery one with the group likening it to a cobra pairing up with a mongoose or a scorpion with a spider. The City Lights’ James Roden sounds a lot like Damon Albarn as his group perform some four-to-the-floor rock. There is a resonant, dirty guitar riff that is inspired by The Kinks’ “Tired Of Waiting For You”, while the sharp energy and party feel make the proceedings not dissimilar to the in-you-face style favoured by The Hives. It also shares the latter band’s sense of cheekiness in the lyrics. Consider: “I love her for her clothes/She hates me for my hair/She can’t tell the boys from the girls/We make the perfect pair”. exile The Exile Co. on the other hand take us back to another point in the past, to the Cotton Club where dancer, Fay Ray is reminiscing about her early life. At age 12 she would hop a freight train from Louisiana to New York City. She would dance in the legendary chorus line, The Silver Belles (and did so for decades- well into her eighties). This song is a tribute to her by a quartet known for their alt-country and rock songs. On “Fay Ray” however, the music shares a few things in common with a layered Sonic Youth track thanks to its overarching sense of optimism plus its melodic and catchy chorus. The City Lights and The Exile Co.’s split EP is at its core a true celebration of youth. It’s like a dance at an end-of-school party and it is oh so fun. It also manages to be relatable, honest and truthful and is the musical equivalent of having all of your favourite characters from a John Hughes film come to life and start strutting with gay abandon.  

EP REVIEW: DAVEY LANE – THE GOOD BORNE OF BAD TYMES

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He’s You Am I’s guitarist, so most people would probably bet that Davey Lane’s first solo output would be guitar-based and probably rock. But they’d only be half right. His debut EP, The Good Borne Of Bad Tymes has guitar pop sure, but he’s also added another feather to his cap with vocal effects and spacey keys punctuating these proceedings.

Lane is taking a bit of a risk here. There are psychedelic hooks and even moments that are almost electro but the fact is it’s all very smart, sharp and varied pop music. He is clearly a fan of a few different genres and this rings true not just with his compositions, but in the collaborations and work he’s done over the years with artists as varied as Barnsey, Crowded House, Chris Cheney and the list goes on.

These five tracks are produced and written by Lane. They’re also released on his own label, Field Recordings. The mood is upbeat and joyous. It’s like he’s looking for the good in every situation, even the sad ones. And perhaps he put it best when he joked in two different interviews that it’s mostly “Just me dicking about in my boffin cave” and that it sounds like “Whatever’s rattling ‘round inside my head”.

It should come as no surprise that single, “You’re The Cops, I’m The Crime” has become a Triple J favourite. It’s some cosmic pop filled with reverb and fuzz, making it sound not unlike a Tame Impala track. “Sinking May” on the other hand is more toe-tapping and optimistic, just as you would imagine Lane to be. The guy seems like such a cheerful fella so he had no shortage of famous friends helping out with the recording process with Nic Cester, Kat Spazzy, Jade Macrae and his The Pictures bandmate, Brett Wolfenden all lending a hand.

A curveball is thrown by Lane in the cleverly-titled, “Comfortably Dumb”. It’s glamorous and dolled up to the nines and is a melodic and futuristic musical nod as Lane sings from outer space. It’s the same venue of choice for the closer, “You Got Me On Side”. The latter is a pop opus that sounds like a tea party where Split Enz and David Bowie are guests of honour and they feast away on mooncakes.

Davey Lane’s The Good Borne of Bad Tymes is an honest and organic record from one underrated musician. Lane may have taken a chance here and there with some sonic diversions but it’s all paid off. His debut EP will appeal to the pop fan in all of us because this guy is easily one of the biggest aficionados of said genre.

Originally published on 3 October 2013 at the following website: http://thedwarf.com.au/album_review/16933/the-good-borne-of-bad-tymes

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EP REVIEW: MORGAN BAIN – SELF-TITLED

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Morgan Bain is a young man that practices what he preaches. He has said that he thinks everyone should experiment and write songs about as many things as they can and tell a story. On his second, eponymous EP he does this while also talking cues from Victor Hugo. At the end of the day it’s all about music expressing what cannot be said and when it’s impossible to remain silent.

The five tracks show Bain can write songs that are full of spirit but are also all-encompassing and versatile. “I Think I’ve Got You” opens the proceedings and is no less than a West Australian Music Song of the Year award winner in the 15-17 years category. It’s a catchy ditty that sees some Jonathan Boulet-like pop combined with the kind of coastal vibes heard on Messer Jack Johnson’s work. It also has a little distortion and has moments when it’s totally pumping.

“Tear Me Right Apart” sees Bain follow a similar route to his debut EP by stripping things back a little bit. This one is a piano ballad where Bain bears all by wearing his heart on his sleeve and yearning for his missing object of affection. The mood doesn’t stay down for too long though, because “Thirty Five Seconds” sees the vocals soaring sky high and sounding like they were being delivered from a misty mountaintop. There is also a gentle hum at times, leaving you with room for some quiet contemplation.

The final two tracks see Bain up the rock swagger. On “She Got Me This Way” the heavier guitar riffs could have been by a pub rock band and there are moments where it’s as funky as a Dan Sultan cut. It’s a role that’s reprised on “Deep Hollow Howl” where Bain sings like a choirboy on a folk-via-pop track.

Morgan Bain is a young guy that sounds like a much more mature, old man who has been hardened by years of heartbreak, experience and life. It’s no surprise then that Bain has been playing guitars since he was eight and singing since he was three. This talented musician, multi-instrumentalist and purveyor of rock, blues, roots and indie music looks poised to continue filling the diary and airwaves with even more tales of experience.

Originally published on 16 September 2013 at the following website: http://thedwarf.com.au/album_review/morgan-bain-morgan-bain

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EP REVIEW: BELLTALK – LIGHTS

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Brisbane four-piece, Belltalk should be called “Beautiful”. Their sound is gorgeous, the members are young and attractive and the lyrics are personal and evocative. On their debut EP, Lights, they offer a varied sound across five tracks that will hook the listener in from the first breath.

It should come as no surprise that this set of songs was recorded in Ian Haug’s(Powderfinger) studio and was mixed by Sean Cook (Yves Klein Blue). The youngster’s songs reference the two gentleman’s bands plus other self-proclaimed influences like Joni Mitchell and Radiohead. Some research reveals that this band started with two friends jamming between classes at university and that various members have also studied jazz, classical and opera music.

“Remote Control” could’ve been on any one of Tigertown’s EPs. The sound is not overly original but it is sweet and epic. It’s a folk number that’s been layered with lush melodies while Caitlin von Berky’s smooth voice fills in the gaps. Von Berky’s voice is a rich one that can easily float above the chords and sweep you away and at other moments command you to sit up and listen.

On “Depicture” she asks: “Can you tell me what’s wrong with this picture?” Here the group combine some fuzzy and distorted guitars with some soul-searching and a swirling piano. Single, “Bright Lights” meanwhile, started life out as a drug-referenced song but underwent significant changes.

Von Berky decided to keep the riff and the band have added an urgency and passion to the percussion. It means the final product is full of an enthusiastic punch and it is ultimately an ode to never wanting to settle down. It’s a different vibe to the closer, “Treat You Kind”, which is a slower, mournful break-up ballad that will make your eyes water.

On Lights, Belltalk do just as the package describes; with some light and airy pop music that sits somewhere between the work of George and Sarah Blasko. The music is kept serene and atmospheric and things are sweet without being too overpowering. In short, it’s a multi-faceted collection of warm pop tunes best served up while dancing under a balmy sun.

 

Originally published on 12 September 2013 at the following website: http://thedwarf.com.au/album_review/belltalk-lights

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EP REVIEW: TIGERTOWN – WANDERING EYES

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The third EP from indie pop quintet, Tigertown looks just like a vinyl LP from the seventies. Heck, Wandering Eyes even sounds like a record from that era. The group certainly know their Fleetwood Mac’s from their Fairport Conventions. They also offer something homely and not altogether unexpected here.

The band members are all tied together by either familial bonds or marriage vows. The youngsters have certainly grown and matured with each new release and this one is no different. They continue to develop their flair for eclectic tunes with a rustic feel, songs that are shiny pop gems and their own answers to Australiana. It’s also a formula that’s worked and earned them one impressive following to date.

‘Weary One’ kicks off proceedings with some chiming boy-girl vocals and a pop style that sits somewhere between Cloud Control and Ben Lee. The artists also take the time to doff their caps at Jack Johnson as he sits on a Hawaiian beach before they come to the realisation that all is not as it used to be, nor as they figured. The song’s strength lies in the fact that it successfully draws together lots of different sonic ingredients, but the lyrics are a bit of a let down because they’re overly simplistic and repetitive.

The previous single, ‘What You Came Here For’ is offered next and this one takes us on a turn back in time to eighties childhood films like The Neverending Story and others from the fantasy genre. ‘Back In Time’ meanwhile, does just as the title suggests and is the first one to really fit with the nostalgic EP art. It was also the band’s first self-confessed ‘Real Fleetwood Mac moment’. But for my money it’s the following title track that really fits that bill, because it sounds dangerously close to being a reprise of the Mac’s ‘Rhiannon’.

Wandering Eyes was recorded live by Liam Judson (Belles Will Ring) and at times it sounds like the group are playing house in a dark room or they’re joining forces by bellowing off the side of some grand mountaintop. The result is a sound that’s often large and full of layered harmonies plus lush and ambient melodies. Wandering Eyes is filled with polish and radiates from the brain to the pulse and concludes with a hypnotic heartbeat. For a group so young, this is ultimately another joyous addition to a first-rate canon.

Originally published on 23 August 2013 at the following website: http://thedwarf.com.au/album_review/16381/wandering-eyes

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EP REVIEW: BEN SALTER – EUROPEAN VACATION

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Some people send postcards and then there’s Ben Salter. The troubadour spent five months in Europe and rather than come home with souvenirs, he has gone and produced the European Vacation EP.

These seven tracks follow on from his debut solo album,“The Cat”. It also references the country, folk, rock and pop that he’s known for producing in the bands: Wilson Pickers, Giants of Science and The Gin Club.

“The Prophetess” is where the record peaks with some Neil Young-style distortion and psych rock. It also provides the soundtrack to a trek up an Icelandic mountain plus a local myth.

German-Australian chanteuse, Christa Vi features on “Tremulous”. This one could have come from the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “It’s Blitz” because this electro-tinged pop is perhaps Salter’s strangest curveball.

On other tracks Salter steers things back to his more typical course with country music in Ireland and some indie folk with fellow Gin Clubber, Ola Karlsson in Sweden.

“Not Today” is one that sees Salter playing acoustic guitars and harmonising away to dark folk music that sits somewhere between Elliott Smith and Josh Pyke before things end on a strange note with a collage of sonic elements, “Lecce” or a hyper-surreal walk through Italian fields.

Salter’s EP is a solid one filled with eloquent lyrics and some subtle, yet very varied instrumentation. It makes the proceedings seem interesting enough but at times you can’t help but wonder whether Salter’s travels are more exciting for him to relive than for the listener to enjoy.

 

Originally published on 2 August 2013 at the following website: http://www.tonedeaf.com.au/reviews/new-music/330640/european-vacation.htm

Visit Tone Deaf’s homepage at: http://www.tonedeaf.com.au/

EP REVIEW: FLEA – HELEN BURNS

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I dunno how Flea does it. When he’s not being Michael Balzary and father to Clara and Sunny he spends his downtime as a member of famous supergroups (hello: Atoms For Peace). His day job also means he does hand-stands (both literal and aural) for the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. And somewhere in between (sources say back in 2007) he managed to find time to record the debut solo EP, Helen Burns (one that has only just been released).

This six-track collection was recorded with the RHCP drum tech and keyboardist, Chris Warren; RHCP drummers present and past, Chad Smith and Jack Irons, respectively; and punk princess Patti Smith (who also co-wrote and sings on the title track). The EP title comes from the character of the same name in the classic novel, Jane Eyre. But anyone thinking this indulgent side project is going to sound like Flea’s work with the Chilli Peppers or classical music in general (due to the namesake) had better guess again.

By his own admission, this record is Flea’s “weird” and “arty” one (think a little like Damon Albarn’s Dr. Dee). It’s a trippy and ambient affair where progressive and psychedelic styles (read: strange noise) are offered up in droves. Lyrics are scant (as some tracks are instrumental) and there are one too many twists and turns to call this “accessible” or worthy of more attention than just one or two cursory spins.

‘333’ sets the scene with the first of many sound kaleidoscopes. It’s a busy number with more layers than an onion skin. These go from the hyper-manic to the spooky via some bubbles, fizz, beats, strings, some traditional piano and even a snake-charmer. The feeling is fast, skittish and at times rather anxious (where you could imagine one climbing up some high walls). It’s a different vibe altogether to the sparse flutter of ‘Pedestal of Infamy’ where the percussion is as light and as soft as a breath and the flute creates something rather mystical.

The title track sees Ms Smith in her element with fine, low vocals singing a sombre and sober tune about winter love. ‘333 Revisited’ is a left-turn yet again, because it is so synth-laden, it wouldn’t be out of place on a record by Depeche Mode or New Order. ‘Lovelovelove’ brings things to a close with the choir from the Silverlake Conservatory of Music (who will benefit from the proceeds of this single) offering up something both melodious and sweet.

Helen Burns may have been christened after a Charlotte Brontë character but it is actually more reflective of its mad scientist creator. The sounds are hyperactive (just like Flea) and they vary from the creative and perplexing to the inaccessible and grating in just under 27 minutes. This expansive sound may burn out and prevent numerous spins of the set, but Flea should be complimented for indulging his creative side. This was after all, a labour of love and an itch he clearly had to scratch.

Originally published on 24 March 2013 at the following website: http://thedwarf.com.au/album_review/flea-helen-burns-2

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