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Posts Tagged ‘cd review’

THE LEVITATORS – Eclectica

(Independent)

>Adelaide six piece deliver an EP guaranteed to get you grooving.

At least the Levitators are upfront with what they’re giving you. Eclectica, the follow up EP to the group’s 2008 debut album, has never been a more apt title for a release. Not many acts can pull off the idea of eclectic without seeming scattered or directionless, but The Levitators have managed well. Rather than sounding disjointed, the group combines elements of funk, hip hop and reggae, infusing them into one high energy style. Once Again opens the EP with a strong burst of horns, setting a laid back and groovy atmosphere. Sunshine In My Juice brings out the funk and the hip-hop infused Microphone Freak toys with electronic elements. Each track on Eclectica flows on well from the other, maintaining momentum throughout and never allowing for a lull.

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“Sometimes it’s hard to be a famous dude,” sings Quan Yeomans on ‘All Fake Everything’. There was a lot of rejoicing from long time fans when it was announced that Regurgitator were releasing a new album after what seemed to be a 4 year hiatus. While they haven’t really officially released anything in that time, we’ve seen snippets of songs here and there, snap shots of the band taking their time to release something they’d be happy with. The end result is SuperHappyFunTimesFriends, an album you can purchase on any format you’d like. I got the cassette. Because, well, cassettes are pretty cool.

Regurgitator have never really been a band to take seriously, and while this album has its touching moments we still see the Regurgitator we’ve come to know and love. SuperHappyFunTimesFriends has a much stronger punk feel than previous albums, typical of the band to never really stick to a style for too long. I much prefer their hip hop stuff for the most part, but there are some really great moments here. ‘Be Still my Noisy Mind’, ‘No Show’ and lead single ‘One Day’ are the highlights, showing a slightly more serious (well, at least less nonsensical by comparison) lyrical side to a backdrop of catchy pop-rock. ‘Punk Mum’ is fantastic, a stereotypically pop-punk piece dedicated to Yeomans’ mum and ‘Super Happy Funtime’ is an interesting insight into Ben Ely’s mind (ie, random as fuck). ‘All Fake Everything’ is really the only hip hop style track on the album and those who haven’t been fans of the band for a while would see it as somewhat of a random addition.

It’s a short album, clocking in at just over 30 minutes. And with about half of the tracks just barely hitting the 2 minute mark, you can’t help but feel that some of this is just filler between much better songs. ‘DMT 4 2’ and ‘Devil Spell’ don’t really add anything of substance to the album at all. Mirco-track ‘Game Over Dude’ does provide a nice segue been ‘One Day’ and ‘All Fake Everything’ though. SuperHappyFunTimesFriends certainly isn’t as immediately impressive as previous albums, but you have to give the band some credit for just doing their own thing on their own terms.

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It has been five years since Wally De Backer has released an album under his moniker Gotye. The wait has proven to be worthwhile though, as Making Mirrors is easily one of the most anticipated albums of this year. The album opens with the title track, a 50 second clip of dreamy synths before launching into the groovy ‘Easy Way Out’. For the most part of the album, we have pop music at its best. ‘I Feel Better’ and ‘In Your Light’ are retro sounding with amazingly catchy hooks, though I’m not sure if they quite compare to the booming chorus of ‘Eyes Wide Open’.

While I can’t say that ‘State of the Art’ is one of the best songs on Making Mirrors, the whole idea behind it is fascinating – right from the story behind Gotye acquiring the second hand organ to the unique style of recording the vocals (as seen in the short documentary of Making Mirrors). In fact, the whole process behind the album is fascinating. There are so many layers, samples and different instruments that it’s impossible to dissect it all (no wonder it has taken 5 years for this album to be released…). Current single ‘Somebody that I Used to Know’ which features New Zealand singer Kimbra  almost seems like the odd one out on the album, being musically sparse by comparison and much more focussed on the lyrics.

The one downfall of the album is that not all of these musical ideas feel like they have been fully developed or fleshed out. Songs like ‘Don’t Worry We’ll Be Watching’, and especially the first two tracks don’t seem as well thought out as other album tracks. However, there’s something to be said about a song ending it before it grows stale, leaving the listener wanting more. While these tracks may not work out so well as individual songs, they fit into the greater scheme of the album extremely well. Gotye is great at capturing the emotion within in his music, whether it be dark and moody or bright and uplifting. Making Mirrors is a completely inspiring album, completely original and certainly worth giving your attention to.

 

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Wings is the follow up EP for Brisbane’s own power-pop quartet the Bloodpoets. The group gained success last year after the release of their debut album Polarity with radio airplay, national tours and some pretty decent support slots. The six-track EP shows the four-piece attempting to move to a more mature sound. The end result isn’t as immediate as Polarity and doesn’t really sound like the Bloodpoets we’ve become familiar with. I’ve always loved the band and rave about them every chance I get, but I can’t help but feel a little let down by this EP. I’ve had it for a while, hoping that maybe it’s a ‘grower’ but it doesn’t really hold up to what was offered in Polarity.

First off, Wings is mostly much slower and darker, with an attempt at a fuller sound. There is added brass and strings that sound out of place and over produced. This is particularly seen in ‘She Feels It’, strong piano and overstated strings that are by far too dramatic by comparison to the rest of the EP. A jilted change into a guitar solo sounds of out place, and left me thinking that maybe they tried a little too hard to fit all these epic ideas into this track. On the complete other end of the spectrum, tracks like ‘Faces on the Street’ come across as cringe-worthy pop punk.

Opening track ‘Wings’ hints back at the sound we’re familiar with, but feels more like a half baked version of what could have been a brilliant track. First single ‘Dance’, which came out last year, is probably the best track on the EP and by far the catchiest. It’s true that a great hook doesn’t make a great song, but it has certainly worked for the Bloodpoets in the past. What’s missing from the EP is a sense of fun and excitement; instead we have a band that seems to be trying to take themselves far too seriously.

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In Loving Memory is the sophomore album from Sydney’s the Paper Scissors, who have recently become well known for their unique blend of indie pop and garage rock accented by Jai Pynes’ powerful vocals. It’s an album that grabs you immediately and demands more listens, but unfortunately after repeated plays wears quite thin. For those familiar with the band, In Loving Memory is a distinctly Paper Sissors sounding album that offers very few surprises. ‘Disco Connect’ opens the album slowly, and is one of the weakest tracks. These slower almost ballad-like tracks just don’t suit the band’s style as well, instead the punchy guitars and pounding drums suit Jai Pynes’ chanting choruses much better. It is also one of the first instances on the album of attempting to add some electronic elements to the music, but instead these electro-beeps sound like telephone touch pad tones and just come across as tacky.

‘Lung Sum’ is a song we first encountered at the end of last year, and is the first single from the album. The bassline weaves around a solid drum beat, and its catchy chorus pushes it to be one of the stronger tracks on the album. ‘Dozens’ and ‘Over There’ are highlights too, following a similar formula to that of ‘Lung Sum’. ‘Wrong’ experiements with a more industrial sort of sound, with vocal effects that sound a little bit out of place, jarring the flow of the album. The highlights of In Loving Memory are real stand outs, and will eventually draw listeners back to this album. The weaker tracks though are preventing it from being one of those albums that will put it on regular rotation.

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I Want That You Are Always Happy is the long awaited debut album from Townsville indie-folk collective The Middle East. You probably remember them from when Triple J was flogging ‘Blood’ from way back when, and while this could easily be one of my favourite albums titles of all time the record simply fails to deliver. The 7-piece is well known for their poppy folk stylings and lush vocal harmonies, but for the most part IWTYAAH comes across as sparse and lacking. It certainly doesn’t sound like a record made by a band consisting of seven members.

‘Black Death 1349’ brings the album to a slow and unexciting start and stays quite low key until the album’s highlight ‘Jesus Came to my Birthday Party’, where the upbeat tempo and combination of male/female vocals help to make it a standout. Unfortunately the album quickly takes another dive and staggers long, uninteresting folk songs, modern country tracks and a few pop hits. The constant changing of pace is distracting, making I Want That You Are Always Happy a tedious album to listen to, certainly not drawing you back in for more listens. It’s as if they can’t quite decide who they want to be as a band.

There are some decent tracks on the album though. ‘Land of the Bloody Unknown’ is a typically Australian folk/country song that is certainly worth a listen, though could possibly be better suited to another artist such as Gareth Liddiard. ‘Sydney to Newcastle’ is a nice little instrumental piano piece that could have been built up into a full, more interesting song. ‘Months’ is more of a classic kind of Middle Eastsound, with the most memorable hook on the album. The few standouts don’t make up for the pitfalls in this case though, meaning I Want That You Are Always Happy is likely to be quickly forgotten.

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Pete Uhlenbruch, better known as Owls of the Swamp, has been showing off his folk stylings around the southern states for a little while now, steadily making a name for himself. Go with River is the sophomore album from Uhlenbruch after 2007’s Smoky Bay, and has a similar inception to that of Bon Iver’s debut. Uhlenbruch holed himself up in a little house in Inverloch for five weeks while he wrote and recorded most of the music on the album. The end product is a warm folk-pop offering that leans more towards the folk end of the spectrum than pop. It’s a sound that’s easily comparable to that of Iron and Wine or Bon Iver, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that they are similar.

Go with River heavily features a gently plucked guitar accompanied by Uhlenbruch’s melancholy voice, enhanced by gorgeous light layers and textures. ‘Tricks and Turns’ is the absolute highlight of the album though, with a catchy melody and bittersweet lyrics; one of the few songs that will instantly catch you. First single ‘So Far Away’ is of course a stand out track as well, and one of the poppier on the album. There are snippets of songs that could have potentially been greater than what they are, opener ‘43’ for example has a nice chord progression that doesn’t progress any further than a minute long instrumental and ‘Praying Mantis’ which is at 45 second scoundscape. The album as a whole is extremely cohesive and flows easily, but can seem quite simplistic or sparse at times. For the most part it isn’t immediately striking, but after a few listens the nuances begin to shine through.

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