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Album Reviews

What's been crossing our ears this week...


former and ‘Follow Me’, but that’s pretty negligible given the bubbling dominance of strident guitar lines throughout.)

Couldn’t Be Better Warp Popfrenzy Records x

Xxxx There are myriad contemporary references to Sydney and Australia, but the quality of the songs will surely prove timeless.

There’s not much point in obsessing about how much of the jaunty/whatever vibe of this group is affected. The reality is there’s a lot of talent on offer, and much of it has smooshed together rather classily – not that they’d admit it. No disrespect to multi-instrumentalists and vocalists Alex Kiers (Raw Prawn) and David Akerman (Dead Farmers), but the most distinct and appealing voice here is the baritone belonging to Nathan Roche (Marf Loth). On record, as when they play live, his never-keening voice is a joy as he summons females to drink tepid cocktails in ‘The Tropic Capricorn’, and ponders whether he’ll fit in with the beautiful people of ‘Manly’. (The exceptions to this are when his speak-sing labours over some clunky rhyming on the



Reincarnated Sony

As you may have heard, Snoop Dogg recently went to Jamaica, where he had a ‘spiritual awakening’ (i.e. smoked some particularly potent strains of local weed), and fell in love with Rastafarianism. Now he’s traversed both genre and species lines to reincarnate himself as Snoop Lion, creator of mediocre reggae. If all this sounds like a shallow marketing ploy, it’s because it clearly is. As a singer, Snoop makes an excellent rapper. These are competent but clumsy takes on Jamaican music, littered with inane, generically positive lyrics. It’s nice that Snoop is all about peace and love now, but frankly he was far more entertaining when he was rapping about shooting cops and being a misogynist. The production, handled mostly by Major Lazer, is high on polish, and low on soul. Upbeat dancehall tunes like ‘Here Comes the King’ and ‘Smoke the Weed’ are fun enough to dance to, but forgettable. The majority of the tunes are carried by guest vocalists, and some of them – like Collie Budz, Angela Hunte, Mavado and Popcaan – bring much-needed energy to Snoop’s listless singing style. Other guest spots from the likes of Drake and Busta Rhymes don’t add much besides star power. Snoop’s been claiming that he feels like the reincarnation of Bob Marley, which is odd. Not only because Snoop was born ten years before Marley died, but also because Bob Marley was a musical genius incapable of writing a bad reggae song. So it seems unlikely he’d be reincarnated as an ageing gangsta rapper who’s incapable of writing a good one. What sort of karmic justice is that?

Led by the talented Josh Simons, Buchanan specialise in clear vocals tangled in and amongst powerful driving drums and guitars that deftly avoid becoming obnoxious and retain a sense of understated force. Title track ‘Human Spring’ masters this recipe to perfection as Simons’ earnest vocals coax you into a sing-along, unavoidably so in the repetitive “Ain’t got no violent heart / Still we will make our mark”. The video clip for ‘Human Spring’ is one to look up, especially if you appreciate an unsavoury underdog winning a small-town talent show with a killer display of his enviable air-guitar skills. The album is also speckled with lighter songs like ‘For Tonight We Rest (Leaves)’. Vocal harmonies add depth to already existing subtleties and comforting echoes, which delicately fill the song in a steady build, long before any electric guitars come in. A few songs fall into generic Chris Martin anthem territory and in these, the efforts of a star-casted production team really do come to the rescue. Human Spring was produced by Catherine Marks (Foals, Interpol) with the help of Tim Cross (Mike Oldfield), mixed by Andy Baldwin (Bjork, Midnight Juggernauts), and mastered at Abbey Road by Geoff Pesche, who’s worked with the awe-inspiring likes of LCD Soundsystem and Radiohead.

There’s the allusion of room to breathe on ‘Morphine Dream’, but there is barely room to wheeze. Roche fires questions throughout the verses before recalling pre-1975 Lou Reed in the refrain; from nowhere the band hit the gas as Akerman’s bass bobs and swirls in a mix of guitar slides and buzzes to close the album. Benjamin Cooper



Human Spring Raw Imagination People Expect

Single ‘Run Faster’, a triple j favourite of 2012 and easily one of the standouts on this debut is how you might remember Australian band Buchanan (pronounced ‘Bew-Cannon’). Human Spring, their debut album, is doused in all the uplifting alternativepop-rock substance one could hope for.

The Kiers’ sung ‘Down and Out’ is a close-to-perfect two minutes of shlop ‘n’ roll. Chris Shortt (Royal Headache) kicks and flicks his drums along with snappy precision, while the chorus’s harmonised vocals are rough, ready and pleasing. The tale of a flâneur who has hit the big time thunders along so quickly it requires multiple repeat listens to get a smidgeon of appreciation for the clashing guitars.

Gravitas (EP) Independent/MGM

Mailer Daemon has been described as genre agnostic and it only takes the first few songs to realise just how diverse this Sydney based producer’s influences are. While alt-rock influenced hip-hop with strong dance music leanings sounds like a cluster fuck of nonsense waiting to happen, it’s lucky that Mailer Daemon happens to be a formidable producer. Taking the best elements of each genre, he manages to make his debut EP an intriguing sample of things to come. Lead single ‘Always On the Grind’ featuring P Smurf of Daily Meds, Jeswon of Thundamentals and The Tongue, a nod to the hustle and grind of job juggling as an artist, has future classic stamped all over it; tongue in cheek, tight rhymes from some of the best in Aussie hip hop, it’s the anthem for struggling artists everywhere. It fuses dance and hip hop aesthetics tastefully, a fusion that has the tendency to lead to unyielding cheesiness if handled clumsily. There are occasions though, where the careful balance of sounds and influences seems disrupted. ‘Up In The Clouds’ ft. Jackie Onassis has an amazing arrangement and beat that deserves the limelight all to itself, rather than having vocals competing for your attention over the top; as a sum of parts, it feels too busy and would have worked just as well as an instrumental. ‘As a whole, though, Gravitas is a testament to the talent of this up and coming producer, and the pastiche of influences and genres with a modern lick works surprisingly well.

Listening to Doggystyle for the three thousandth time would be far more enjoyable than this.

It’s a solid effort from Buchanan, who have clearly isolated their anthemic indie-rock sound and called it their own, in a powerful and tonally varied debut.

While ‘genre agnostic’ can too easily end up as just plain rudderless and confused, Mailer Daemon keeps it fresh and interesting for those who like their music mashed up.

Adam Black

Katie Davern

Marissa Demetriou

Phoenix are so dreamy. They regularly serve up surprises like collaborating with R. Kelly at Coachella and recording the early part of their new album in Byron Bay’s hinterlands. But is their fifth album any good? There is no denying this jaunt is all about the aural sugar. The famously finickety Frenchman have deviated slightly from their formula by layering synth upon synth to drown ears and hearts. Thomas Mars uses his keening voice to yearn for and align himself with youth desperate to find solace AND the party on ‘S.O.S. In Bel Air’ and ‘Drakkar Noir’. Yet there’s none of the graduation of previous hits like ‘Too Young’ and ‘Consolation Prizes’; instead of hand claps or steady strumming summoning the fun we’re immediately and unceasingly drenched in swirling, and disorientating, keyboards. A defining pleasure on 2009’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix was the gorgeously realised instrumental track ‘Love Like A Sunset’. The Parisians have tried to do the same with ‘Bankrupt’, but creative lassitude is all the more noticeable once what has been earned in the past is squandered. There is nothing epic about the muted keys that give way to electro loops that Daft Punk wouldn’t have touched in 1989. The space they so desire is completely absent, and by the time Mars’ forgettable croon ushers in the song’s end we’re completely lost. And slightly deflated. There are notable highlights: early single ‘Entertainment’ is the only example of ‘80s aping that is undeniably exciting, while ‘Bourgeois’ packs a chorus that will have even the nastiest of cynics/critics singing along. Unfortunately it’s not enough. The treacle is turned up to 11, and this time it’s far from tasty.

Ride Your Heart Dead Oceans Bleached comprises sisters Jennifer and Jessica Clavin, who match pure Shangri-Las harmonies with Beach Boys guitar and percussion. The LA duo rose from the ashes of lo-fi garage rock band Mika Miko and their new outfit has deservedly been generating some serious buzz of late, online and off. Their debut Ride Your Heart features deceptively simple “bubblegum punk”

24 :: BRAG :: 511 :: 06:05:13

songs that wink and sparkle through a haze of lush guitar fuzz. But scratch the surface and the songs are more than just odes to cute boys and waiting for your crush to call you. They are also about maintaining your independence in a relationship and finding your own identity. “Don’t try and stop me/Cause I’m already dreaming without you.” The songs have largely similar elements, but each one does something a little different with them. Opener ‘Looking For A Fight’ is a rollicking, catchy two minutes that’s over too soon. ‘Dead In Your Head’ features harmonies that echo The Bangles before fading out in a wall of feedback and ‘Searching Through The Past’ is simultaneously

chastising and pleading. ‘Guy Like You’ is a stripped back ballad underscored with a yearning guitar line and simple lyrics, and final track ‘When I Was Yours’ contrasts organ, a spoken verse and murky feedback for a surprisingly successful finale. Basically, Bleached have delivered a fantastically fun and thoughtful pop record that will make a great summer soundtrack. If you like fast, fun and fuzzed out surf-pop, Ride Your Heart ticks all the boxes, but goes deeper than its sugar and spice surface in the process, revealing unexpected depth. Natalie Amat

Heartful EP Yes Please / Remote Control

While listening to this six-track collection you wouldn’t be shunned for assuming it’s made up of several exceptionally talented musicians. In fact, it’s the work of only one man – multi-instrumentalist and composer James Wallace. For his third EP release, Melbourne’s ambient orchestral pop producer returns with more signature delicate melodies and spacious arrangements. Opener ‘Hierloom’ is one of the standout tracks, with hushed choruses and a deeply layered crescendo of violins making you all soft on the inside, while ‘Halogen Moon’ begins with a tinkling glockenspiel over a pretty earworm melody. ‘Burial’ takes things even more intimate, pulling together a wealth of versatile bowing sounds coupled with his dreamy vocals, but it should have been placed as the album closer, as being mid-album breaks up the intensity and lulls you to sleep. Fortunately, ‘Everyone Seems to Be in on Something’, comes next to wake you up, as Wallace takes his sound to new heights with rhythmic plucked strings on the record’s standout track, bringing the middle of the EP together with twinkling, out-of-thin-air symphonies adding atmosphere. Wallace has an exceptional talent for creating profound compositions that simply work their way under your skin – he can turn everything from tapping a violin’s strings to samples of his voice into an instrument, constructing sparse, elegant headphone music for your heads and heart. Wallace is a master of ethereal delicacies - treat yourself to the sounds of Heartful. Carla Pavez

Benjamin Cooper



Bankrupt EMI


And here are the albums that have helped BRAG HQ get through the week... DAFT PUNK - Random Access Memories IGGY AND THE STOOGES - Raw Power DANCEHALL TO BURN - (Spotify playlist)

FRIGHTENED RABBIT - Pedestrian Verse ACTION BRONSON - Bon Appetit...Bitch

The Brag #511  

SYDNEY’S HOTTEST INDEPENDENT WEEKLY STREET PRESS Hitting the streets with the best music, culture and events, every Monday. This week: Local...

The Brag #511  

SYDNEY’S HOTTEST INDEPENDENT WEEKLY STREET PRESS Hitting the streets with the best music, culture and events, every Monday. This week: Local...