Song of the week – A Heartbreak

angus-and-julia-stone

A Heartbreak – Angus and Julia Stone

In the same week I managed to snag tickets to this awesome Australian brother-sister duo’s first live appearance in New Zealand, they’ve let us get an early preview of their new album.

I’m happy to say, after only an hour of listening, this is the best material each of them have produced yet and this concert is going to be one hell of a gig.

A Heartbreak is the first track on the new LP and 30 seconds into my first listen I instantly thought ‘this is a hit’. For the first time in their musical history the pair have written the songs together rather than separately. It’s glorious to hear their voices complimenting each other. They both have such a different and unique style and that’s always been an interesting element to their albums, both together and solo, in the past. But in this self-titled third record it’s obvious they’ve really found their place and sound in the folk-music world.

A Heartbreak showcases Angus’ grunty, funky style with a perfect dose of Julia’s romanticism. Where in the past Angus’ songs have screamed out for a female harmony (which to me always seemed so weird it was missing when Julia was right there?) they now have them. A Heartbreak is the perfect example of this on the album. The toe-tapping melody is really brought to life with the contrast of their two voices.

This is a catchy, upbeat track from the duo. It’s got an element of drumbeat like what you’d hear from The Black Keys which really gives it some spunk. Then in the bridge is the Angus guitar solo I was waiting for. It’s a simple riff but it makes me grin with pleasure to hear it. The lyrics too compliment everything about this song. They’re not the most inspiring you’ve ever heard but they work with the light and lovely sound the track resonates. It’s a song I can see people driving in their cars, singing along to, tapping their fingers on the steering wheel.

Angus and Julia were already real favourites of mine but this album will definitely have them making their way further up my list.

You can stream the whole record for free on the Triple J website this week before it’s officially released on Friday August 1st.

http://ab.co/1nPQygO

Ps. Before I discovered I could stream this latest album I was about to write my song of the week about another one of their tunes anyway – spooky! If you don’t already follow Angus and Julia Stone (which you’re crazy not to) I think their best song previous to this album is Yellow Brick Road, make sure you check that one out too.

Song of the week – Wish I Was Here

Wish I Was Here – Cat Power and Coldplay

This is the slow jam I’ve been craving all year.

The powerful collaboration between the British superstars and American singer-songwriter Charlyn Marie Marshall, known as Cat Power, is a tune which goes straight to the heart.

The song is the title track off the soundtrack for Zach Braff’s latest film of the same name. When Zach Braff made Garden State we were introduced to his wonderful taste in music and this album is no different with an outstanding combination of artists.

I went a bit gooey inside when I read that Coldplay’s Chris Martin wrote the song specifically for the film, but decided the vocals needed to be from a woman, because the story is about a strong, female character becoming the matriarch of her family. Braff and Martin almost simultaneously announced that Cat Power was the woman for the job.

Boy, were they right!

Chan Marshall is a glorious addition to this song. Wish I Was Here consists of a soft, solo piano melody and not much more. That’s because with Marshall’s voice, it doesn’t need anything else. Her voice is glorious. She is commanding in a low vocal range, powerful while still singing gently and truly attention grabbing.

Chris Martin’s vocals back her up superbly. They’re very subtle, but in his true style – they shine. In the songs bridge the melody is built upon with a haunting, echoing solo from Martin and a rough guitar riff. It doesn’t build to true Coldplay levels, but in a powerful move, instead of reaching new heights, the song instead returns, much sooner than you’d expect, to the very simple piano tune and Marshall’s lone vocals. So simple, yet so effective.

And as always, how could I not mention the wondrous lyrics from Chris Martin:

“Every road that’s wrong seems like the road I’m on.

Every sign just seems unclear.

Won’t you come switch me on? I don’t know where I’ve gone.

I wish I was here.”

Simply superb, I would quite like a whole album of collaborations by this lot because I just can’t get enough of I Wish I Was Here.

Song of the week – Down

The Kooks
The Kooks

Down – The Kooks

As I mentioned in my Glastonbury review – the Kooks are back in full force and they’ve brought with them a neat new sound which has just the jazzy rock influence we needed to hear.

Down is a recent single off the much anticipated new album Listen which will be released on the first of September. It’s a quality track that’s getting a thrashing on my iPod after it was brought t0 life for me during their outrageously awesome set at the English festival.

The bouncy, upbeat tune has a classic indie-rock undertone with an 80s-pop element shining through in the chorus which simply yet effectively repeats the word ‘down’ in a spiralling melody. It starts brilliantly with a piercing rock and roll croon from lead singer Luke Pritchard. Immediately, you’re captivated.

Pritchard’s vocals throughout the song are as compelling as ever, the way he articulates his words is truly unique to other singers and that sound is only reinforced in this new number by the quirky guitar riffs which back it up. The two elements contrast each other wonderfully while still presenting that Kooks sound we all know so well. He’s backed up beautifully by guitarist Hugh Harris who pulls off well-timed echoes and underlying melodies. The distant clap patterns heard between verses is another subtle yet effective touch.

This song, along with the other new offerings on this latest album, has a new spunk. It’s a sound which reminds me of Vampire Weekend. In contrast to the bands older hits like Naiive, She Moves in Her Own Way and Ooh La, this song is gruntier, it has more of a rock base. There’s no denying those past hits were awesome songs, but given the Kooks now have two new members and are a few years down the track, Down showcases the new sound the group so desperately needed to find. Their last album Junk of the Heart fell flat and that’s because it lacked the new energy this song showcases.

It’s obvious the band knows they needed a revamp and they’re loving it. I think you can tell that just listening to Down but I also can say it was clearly obvious in their Glastonbury set. Pritchard has said about the new LP: “To me this album is about pure expression. Even the way we made the album felt fresh. We were really listening to what was going on around us, picking up ideas. The whole thing was much more natural.”

Well Pritchard, as far as I’m concerned, you just hit the nail on the head. This song is fantastic.

Let me know what you think!

The Glastonbury 2014 Awards

Our Kiwi Glastonbury crew
Our Kiwi Glastonbury crew

Just over a week has passed since the wondrous event that was Glastonbury. I’ve somehow managed to wash the mud out of every piece of clothing, strand of hair and crevice of my body. I’ve just conquered a post-festival cold. Tackled 40 hours of travel to get back to Wellington and managed to overcome jetlag and get through my backlog of work and back into routine.

Even after all that, the Glastonbury after-glow is still as strong as ever. The five days I spent at Worthy Farm in Pilton, England were hands down the best days of my life.

In some form of a ‘review’ of the acts I managed to see at the jam-packed event, I’ve come up with my Glastonbury awards. See below:

The top act:

Arcade Fire

In true form, the Canadian indie group put on a spectacular set showcasing the best of their latest album Reflektor as well as all the feet-stomping hits fans have come to love over the years. There was every track you wanted to hear. Real highlights for me included new bizarre electro-pop tune Here Comes the Night Time, screaming singalong No Cars Go and energetic rock track Ready to Start. I went along to the gig expecting to be amazed as I have the other two times I’ve seen Arcade Fire take the stage, but this show had more than the others, it had an unexplainable energy which saw the performance take on another level and festival-goers whole-heartedly embraced it. The hill at the Pyramid stage was taken over by mad spectators dancing, as if possessed, by the resonating power the band was pouring across the crowd. I knew at the end of night one of Glastonbury that that was a performance it would be nearly impossible to beat and for me, no other act that weekend came close.

Arcade Fire play the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
Arcade Fire play the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014

The most amusing performance:

Dolly Parton

Well this is one show that won’t be forgotten any time soon. That’s been solidly reinforced for me as I’ve returned home and almost every person who has approached me to chat has begun with the question ‘was Dolly really as amazing as everyone is saying?’ My experience of the country queen began as my friend and I approached the Pyramid stage at the beginning of her set only to become stuck in ‘Glastonbury gridlock’. Yes, gridlock is an appropriate word to describe it. If you ever thought being stuck in gridlock traffic on the motorway was bad – trust me, it has nothing on being jammed in a crowd moving nowhere, with everyone pushing left, right and centre in a desperate attempt to break into the crowd to get a glimpse of this fascinating songstress crooning Jolene. Eventually we got a good vantage point and thank god for that because this is one woman it’s hard to keep your eyes off. The larger than life singer may be aging but her voice remains perfectly intact. She belts out all the crowd favourites with a ferocious vibrancy and fills the gap between each song with hilarious tales of her lifetime, which make her all the more endearing. I can’t say I’m a big fan of most of Parton’s music but after Glastonbury I am a massive fan of her. She is a music legend in every sense.

Dedicated fans check out Doll Parton at the Pyramid Stage
Dedicated fans check out Dolly Parton at the Pyramid Stage

The surprise factor:

The Kooks

Before I went to Glastonbury I’d heard about surprise acts popping up to play sets around the festival site. I’d dreamed of the possibilities and marvelled at the thought of being lucky enough to stumble across one of these gigs, but nothing prepared me for the feeling that overwhelmed me when it actually happened. My friend and I were checking out up and coming Brit musician George Ezra when we heard the whisper ‘apparently the Kooks are playing this stage next’. I thought it seemed too good to be true so pulled up the stage timetable on my phone, the next slot wasn’t scheduled, it simply said ‘TBA’. My friend and I could hardly contain our excitement at the possibility. When it came to the end of George Ezra’s set and the screens before us flashed up that the Kooks were on next, true fan-girl madness set in. An indescribable excitement came over me. It was just the best feeling realising I was about to see one of my favourite bands live for the first time and it was all because I was in the right place, at the right time. I had good reason to be thrilled too because the Kooks are back in full force and they put on the show to prove it! It was a riveting set, full of the old singalongs we love like Naiive and Ooh La and a showcase of at least five instantly-loveable new songs from their new album. You couldn’t wipe the grin off my face for hours after the gig. Officially the best surprise ever.

The best Glastonbury spirit:

Imagine Dragons

This American band took embracing Glastonbury to a whole new level when they strutted on stage covered head to toe in mud. “If you guys have to deal with the mud, we should too” exclaimed frontman Dan Reynolds. The applause from the crowd standing poncho-clad, ankle deep in the brown stuff was electric. These Las Vegas boys knew the way to everyone’s hearts and they used it. It was a fantastic touch and set the scene perfectly for what was to be an electric performance. Imagine Dragons really looked ‘on top of the world’ on stage at Glastonbury, it was awesome to see.

Me at the Other Stage enjoying the Glastonbury mud
Me at the Other Stage enjoying the Glastonbury mud

The swoon award:

Jake Bugg

This boy’s got power. There’s something enchanting about the 20-year-old’s performance that’s hard to explain unless you see it for yourself. Typically I’d be quick to criticise a performer who fails to interact with their audience, but Jake Bugg, who said no more than ten words during his entire set, gets away with it. During his show I felt every emotion under the sun. I marvelled at his stage presence, which was so strong considering how little he did to get it. I was hypnotised by his incredible ability on the electric guitar. I closed my eyes and felt pure joy listening to his crooning, deep and soulful voice which overtakes everything. I was well and truly swooned.

The best singalong:

Concrete Schoolyard – Jurassic 5

It was the 90s singalong everyone was craving. The fun-loving J5 crew put on an entertaining set linking all of their well known jams, plus a few new ones but there was one song everyone was hanging out to hear and when they got it, boy did they enjoy it. Concrete Schoolyard rang out at the West Holts stage. The people around me screamed each word so loudly I couldn’t even hear the crew’s voices. It was such an amusing and memorable moment for me and one I won’t be forgetting any time soon.

The unexpected highlight:

John Newman

This man is a star! Not only does he have the voice of a soul angel but he’s got a real knack for song writing and boy can he move. The 23-year-old Yorkshire lad resembled a modern-day Elvis Presley. We all danced, jumped and sang to his better known tracks, Not Giving In and Love Me Again particular highlights, as well as being totally won over during the lesser-known songs which all truly stood up in their own right as well-written, catchy pop tunes. It’s so great to hear top 40 dance hits with a good dose of brass and a non-computerised voice. I’ll be watching this talented musician closely from now on and can’t wait for the next opportunity to see him strut his stuff on stage again.

The best comeback:

Lily Allen

Last time I saw Lily Allen she was a disgrace on stage. She stumbled all over the place barely able to walk, she stopped mid line only to take a drag on her cigarette and lose her place in the song and she was pitchy and dull. I heard she’d got her act together now so I thought I’d give her a chance at Glastonbury and I’m so glad I did. Got her act together is an understatement. This gal is on fire! She’s ready for world domination if she puts on a performance as good as this from now on. The charming songstress pumped life into her latest offerings with her famous hilarity while on stage at the festival. She cranked her old favourite tracks like the Fear and LDN, showed off a stunning vocal range in a powerful rendition of Keane’s Somewhere Only We Know, which had the crowd captivated in silence, and dominated a sexy take on her latest tongue-in-cheek hit Hard Out Here. It was an hour of fun.

The biggest disappointment:

Blondie

I’ve got three words: Boring. Flat. Lifeless. I needn’t say anymore.

The ones to watch:

Kodaline

These Irish rockers have the potential to keep producing hit after hit as the years go on if their Glastonbury set is anything to go by. Each and every song was a crowd favourite prompting singalongs, many of which would have suited a ‘hold your lighter in the air’ festival moment had their set not been in the middle of the day. Lead singer Steve Garrigan was an effective frontman, leading the band through a well chosen set-list, perfectly suited to the Glastonbury audience. He was a force. During Love Like This I was incredibly impressed to watch him jump between the rhythm guitar, harmonica, piano and vocals with ease. I was so impressed with their performance I can’t wait to see what comes next from this band.

The best crowd motivation:

Ed Sheeran

What an audience-engager! Sheeran was straight on stage with a presence you rarely see in a solo artist today. He took immediate control of the crowd as if they were his minions. Throughout his set we all did exactly as he requested. We even managed to clap in time on the 8th bar and sing harmonies split between different sections of the fans. But the real highlight came during Sing when the Brit had everyone waving a piece of clothing in the air during a certain line in the chorus. The effect at the Pyramid stage, a natural amphitheatre, was an impressive sight.

The spine-tingle award:

James Blake

When the electronic legend burst into a chilling version of Limit to Your Love I got the spine-tingle I was waiting for at Glastonbury. The way he built the song, layering each part slowly on top of the other, was remarkable to watch. His uniquely powerful voice resonated with me, it is like no other I’ve heard and during his set it seemed to go right to my very soul. I was in electronica heaven and by the way everyone around me moved to the music in slow-motion, eyes closed, just as I did. I could tell they were in heaven too.

The voice award:

London Grammar

My Glastonbury experience was brought to a close with a stimulating live performance from London Grammar. The indie Brit group were surprisingly powerful on stage led by Hannah Reid. The band behind her was left a little in the dust when compared to her. She is a star in the making. Her voice is of a quality we don’t often hear today, it is booming, with an extensive range. Her shy and incredibly genuine personality shines alongside it in a refreshing change from most bolshy popstars. At the end of the set I felt a real longing to hear more.

The view over the Glastonbury site
The view over the Glastonbury site