Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Smith Street Band - No One Gets Lost Anymore [2011]

Before I began writing this review I made a conscious decision to not compare Wil Wagner to Frank Turner, but after retyping one opening sentence after another, it became very apparent that I couldn’t possibly do that. Wil Wagner and his merry band of Smith Street men possess the everyman charm of Frank Turner - albeit with a much more suburban Australian influence – and that’s what really lifts this album from an excellent folk-punk record to something that is genuinely moving.

The Smith Street Band’s stories of living in suburban Australia hit close to home, with most of the lyrics containing all-too-familiar stories of growing up, with all of the love, apathy, fucking up, falling apart and putting yourself back together again that growing up involves. While some of the songs delve into the negative things that lurk inside us all, the record never comes across as bitter or pessimistic instead opting to focus on the fact that no matter how messed up we can be, we’re never really that bad. Album opener ‘I Ain’t Safe’ is the embodiment of this attitude and even though songs like ‘My Little Sinking Ship’ are essentially about being supported by people even though you know you’re going to disappoint them, the last lines ‘and you carry me around from town to little town, never knowing how much I need you, but you can ask any thing of me’ are the perfect way of acknowledging that you still appreciate it beyond anything else. Hell, the refrain on ‘Postcodes’ yells “I’m gonna make you so proud of me,” and that The Smith Street Band will “always sing for people who will not arrest [them] and for girls that [they] barely know.” Lead single ‘Sigourney Weaver’ is a tale of unrequited love, ‘When I Was a Boy I Thought I Was a Fish’ is a triumphant thank you to everything and everyone that’s helped get the band to where they are, ‘The Belly of Your Bedroom’ is a determined ode to improving yourself, and ‘Get High, See Mice’ is about getting really fucking high and seeing mice. Honestly, you’d be hard pressed not to find something lyrically to relate to on this album and that’s probably why it has been such a huge success amongst those who have listened to it.

To be frank, the lyrics are the real highlight of No One Gets Lost Anymore, but that’s not to say that the music isn’t excellent. The band themselves are superb, providing the perfect atmosphere for the stories on the album, be it the understated beautiful guitar riff in ‘Sigourney Weaver’ or the huge climaxes in ‘Rooftops’ and ‘When I Was A Boy I Thought I Was a Fish.’ The acoustic numbers ‘The Belly of Your Bedroom’ and ‘My Little Sinking Ship’ break up the tempo of the album and are lovely pieces in themselves, being two of the most moving tracks on No One Gets Lost Anymore. This album single-handedly launched The Smith Street Band from a small bunch of dudes playing folk-punk music in Melbourne to an invitation to The legendary Fest in 2012, and it’s easy to see why. To anyone who felt a connection to Love, Ire and Song, or even The MonitorNo One Gets Lost Anymore is sure to appeal, and to those who didn’t? Start living.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Tallest Man On Earth - The Wild Hunt [2010]

Armed with nothing but an acoustic guitar and bathed in a single spotlight, Kristian Matsson – better known as The Tallest Man On Earth – took to the stage at the packed Rosemount Hotel to cheers from the eager crowd. Although his introduction was soft-spoken and subdued, his performance was anything but, as he picked his way through the introduction to ‘I Won’t Be Found’ and launched into the song with confidence, his vocals perfectly matching those on record. Without a moment’s pause after the last notes rang out, Kristian began strumming the introduction to crowd favourite ‘The Gardener’ and led those in attendance through an energetic sing-along, the last line of the song being wailed back at him by the audience.

During the slower songs (‘Love Is All’, ‘Like The Wheel’), the power and earnestness of Matsson’s incredible voice was most apparent, and the Rosemount Hotel was the perfect venue for his intimate folk music, as his voice cut through the stillness of a crowd in reverent silence and reached every corner of the packed building. His skill with his acoustic guitar was jaw-dropping too, and seeing Matsson fingerpick his way through the likes of ‘Troubles Will Be Gone’ and ‘The Drying of the Lawns’ while simultaneously keeping the audience hanging on his every word was, quite-frankly, awe-inspiring.

The most memorable moment of the night however, was definitely The Tallest Man’s roaring sing-along of ‘King of Spain’ which had members of the audience moving along with Matsson, who was dancing a merry jig on stage. He closed his set with a surprise version of ‘Like The Wheel’ on piano, and a cover of Jackson Browne’s ‘These Days’, which was a slow and soulful way to round out an intimate night with The Tallest Man On Earth.

Album rules, get it.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Against Me! - Reinventing Axl Rose [2002]

Reinventing Axl Rose is considered by many (including yours truly) to be Against Me!'s peak, a folk-punk bible of sorts. Hearing Tom Gabel roar his way throatily through track after track of passionate and youthfully optimistic punk rock is a feeling that never fails to make the spirits soar. From opener 'Pints of Guinness Make You Strong' which is about a wife lamenting the loss of her husband on St. Patrick's Day, to the atheistic anthem of 'Walking Is Still Honest', and the hilarious 'Baby! I'm An Anarchist', Reinventing Axl Rose is packed with some of the most earnest and incredibly touching punk rock ever recorded.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

As We Draw - Lines Breaking Circles [2010]

As We Draw are a three man band from France. Their music is some sort of post-hardcore/metal - sludge hybrid, apparently.

I find most sludge very similar to that other disdainful, slimy substance, shit. And everyone knows that most things French are pretty shit too. As such one can only conclude that Lines Breaking Circles is living proof that the theorem of double negatives applies to music too. It's actually pretty good... very good even.

I've only had this a couple days, so I haven't got a lot to say, other then that I can't stop listening to it. Definitely worth downloading.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Every Time I Die - Hot Damn! [2003]

The way I see it lately, the metalcore genre seems to have become saturated with two types of bands; those that are bringing ridiculously overproduced and uncreative breakdowns to the swoop-fringed masses, and a select number of bands carrying the banner for the brand of the genre pioneered by the likes of Botch, Integrity and Converge (read: good metalcore), with the focus being on technicality and calculated brutality. It's refreshing then that bands like Every Time I Die exist to prove my jaded generalizations are exactly that - a cynical characterization of a genre that has far more to offer than first meets the eye.

Anyone familiar with Every Time I Die's later work will be able to see the influence their past work has had on their current southern groove oriented manifestation. Much heavier than their recent rock-riff heavy records but still containing the same sense of freewheeling fun, Hot Damn!'s riffs are faster and more intricate, the rhythm section more visceral, and the vocals aggressive and passionate. With a talent for writing witty, intelligent and incredibly appealing lyrics, Keith Buckley leads from the front, and his charisma as a frontman on Hot Damn! is unmatched on any other release from the band. His vocals often take the front seat in this manic half-an-hour of metalcore, and he tactfully avoids being overbearing, instead complimenting the frantic instrumentation with a voice that is equally as urgent. The breakdown on “Floater” is the obvious highlight of the album, with the screams of ‘drag the lake / you’ll find it’s full of love’ expressing all of the anguish and heartache that any asshole that has destroyed a relationship feels. Another standout, “Ebolarama” is an excellent example, with the heavy groove of the opening riffs perfectly partnering Buckley’s bitter spiel about the emptiness of nights drenched in alcohol, but the desire to enjoy it and live and fuck and do it over and over again anyway.

As energetic as it is fun, Hot Damn! (and indeed the band's entire body of work) is an invigorating listen, and with one of the best live shows I've ever experienced, Every Time I Die keep proving their worth as a breath of fresh air in a genre saturated with talentless, tasteless trash.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

FLAC Audio

I'm going to be posting most of my music in FLAC format. FLAC stands for Fully Lossless Audio Codec, and it's currently the most popular lossless format. As you've probably guessed, FLAC rips achieve compression without sacrificing any sound quality. The difference between FLAC and 320kbps mp3s isn't very noticeable, (at least to my ears), but it's definitely there, and FLAC files can easily be converted if need be.

You can download the FLAC codec here.

Guthrie Govan - Erotic Cakes [2006] (FLAC)

Erotic Cakes is a solo instrumental album performed by guitarist Guthrie Govan.
Govan is an exceptionally talented guitarist, and commands a variety of styles at a very high level. Erotic cakes does a great job of showcasing the extent of Govan's ability without being too overindulgent.
Guthrie uses his extensive repertoire tastefully. He employs his techniques like tools from a comprehensive toolbox, rather than cheap tricks from a conjurer's bag. However, the result is nothing but magical.
Erotic Cakes is an amazing showcase of technical proficiency, and fantastic songwriting. Govan proves that you can be a Jack of all trades, and a badass at every single one.