Song of the Week – Mountain At My Gates

Mountain At My Gates – Foals

Listen up Foals fans! A taste of material from their soon to be released album What Went Down is out and these guys are still killing it.

Mountain At My Gates is everything you’d expect in a song from these indie rockers. It picks up exactly where their last album Holy Fire left off and within seconds you’re caught up in their distinctive sound. It features a must-have catchy guitar riff and bouncy drum beat which gel with each other in a funky and upbeat manner.

Yannis Philippakis’ vocals are as other-wordly as ever. He subtly builds the tempo in the track lifting his voice from a gentle croon in the verses into a rockers growl in the choruses and a chilling screech at the end of the track where it erupts into a wall of noise. This kind of climactic finish is what I’ve come to expect in their big tracks like Spanish Sahara and Inhaler and this new release reflects the style perfectly.

Can’t wait to check out the full album. Hopefully this new material means we might get a chance to see the brilliant live act in NZ again soon. I have a feeling this song will be a ripper in concert.

Concert Review: Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams plays Wellington's Opera House
Ryan Adams plays Wellington’s Opera House

Ryan Adams could convert any person at his concert into a mega-fan with his eccentric combination of rock music and comedy.

Last night he brought the house down as he played the Opera House in Wellington with his band The Shining. Things kicked off with a roar with solid grungy track Gimme Something Good from his latest self-titled album. He showed us his new stuff is just as good, if not better than his old, by doing a fantastic rendition of Let It Ride from his time with the Cardinals before cranking back into the recent track Stay With Me which sounded just as awesome.

Then came the moment when we all knew we were in for a particularly magic night – Dirty Rain. This song had the audience mesmerised. Adams and his band took things down a notch for this slower track. The stereotypical rock concert stage set of pinball machines, cat statues, giant amplifiers and a US flag was mellowed out as the back curtain resembled a nights sky full of stars.

Big rock tracks like Magnolia Mountain and Peaceful Valley showcased the pure talent of the rockers ruling the stage. Adams lead grungy guitar solos in true style, flipping back his trademark face-covering, shaggy hair and showing us he is entitled to wear the quintessential rocker outfit of denim on denim. But five tracks into this series of solo after solo, which flicked from shades of Neil Young and Crazy Horse to Tom Petty to U2, the crowd became a little weary. I found it hard to connect for this long when I’d still had no introduction to the band members of the Shining, so far we had no real feel for the group behind the music and who they were.

Of course, just as these thoughts entered my mind Adams came to the rescue and finally acknowledged the crowd. It was worth the wait. His much-loved bizarre and witty sense of humour was plain hilarious. The whole crowd was in stitches as he ran through a band introduction like no other. We now know: Mike Viola the guitarist likes Frankenstein, Thin Lizzy and makes a damn good lasagne. Drummer Freddie Bokkenheuser is like God and always watching Adams’ back. Bass player Charlie Stavish dominates on Playstation’s Tigers Woods Golf and Daniel Clarke on keyboards must be the favourite as he gets an entire spur of the moment song about train tracks made of steel (which makes no sense) dedicated to him. Lucky guy. It’s clear here how much the audience love his humour and have been waiting for it. But also how much the band appreciate playing with him.

After this came one of the most magic moments of the set, a beautiful rendition of Oh My Sweet Carolina. The newly introduced band came into itself with this slowed down song which was played to perfection, Mike Viola and Daniel Clarke provided amazing harmonies as well as a stunning keyboard organ solo. Out came the harmonica and the chills erupted down my spine – incredible.

The show rumbled along with a number of other special moments, like the particularly lovely When The Stars Go Blue which was followed by a hilarious description of how stars should never be blue cause that means they’re coming very close to you. It was a priceless moment of rambling gibberish, which had everyone giggling already before Adams abruptly stopped talking, swung his guitar into action and yelled at us “this song’s about fucking” while bursting into a crazy rendition of Shakedown On 9th Street.

ryan 3

As the set came to an end we were treated to an improv song to end all improv songs. Adams and his band joked about how it was that time of the night where they announced this was their last song before coming back on stage for a ‘fake encore’. After a conversation mix up, Adams soon felt obliged to play a song titled ‘fake encore’ and out it came. This wasn’t a rushed few words, it ended up being a full-length song, backed up beautifully by the Shining as Adams weaved from silly verses to the basic but effective chorus: “they all know it’s the end, they all know it’s the end, it’s just a fake encore.”

It was a moment of genius, I was close to tears I was laughing so hard. Although one verse was a little sad, and shed some light on some of the more sober events in his life recently: “Last time I came to this town, was the last time I spoke to my grandmother, I was also married, it was our first trip. Then that all turned to shit.”

The actual last song of the set, I See Monsters, was a stunning finale with a mind blowing build up culminating in a stunning explosion of sound at the end. Adams and his band didn’t bother to walk off stage afterwards but they still got a rapturous applause, I think partly because everyone knew what was coming next – Come Pick Me Up. This was the perfect rendition of what is his most successful song and it blew everyone away. The harmonica was chilling, his vocals were faultless and it all came together perfectly.

The crowd gave a standing ovation to which Ryan Adams returned a big, genuine thank you. I am certain everyone left 100% satisfied with what was a gig to remember.

Also – a special mention to show opener Hollie Fullbrook of Tiny Ruins. It’s not often an opening act can be quite so compelling when you’re so excited for the main event but she was outstanding. Superb vocals, impressive guitar playing and a refreshingly Wellington rapport with the crowd. Simply stunning.

Set List:

Gimme Something Good
Let It Ride
Stay With Me
Dirty Rain
This House Is Not For Sale
Dear Chicago
Magnolia Mountain
To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)
Peaceful Valley
Kim
Oh My Sweet Carolina
When the Stars Go Blue
Shakedown on 9th Street
Nobody Girl
New York, New York
Trouble
Sweet Illusions
La Cienega Just Smiled
Fake Encore (Improv Song)
I See Monsters
Come Pick Me Up

Song of the Week – Little Numbers

Little Numbers – BOY

BOY – the Swiss/German indie duo made up of two women, have recently become my addiction. These guys are contagious. I first discovered them when listening to Lo-Fang because he does a wonderful cover of their song Boris. Boy am I glad (excuse the pun) he chose to sing their song, cause these gals are a rare find.

With a tone similar to that of Feist, BOY first burst onto the scene by only playing exclusive concerts. But of course it wasn’t long before Valeska Steiner and Sonja Glass were picked up by a record label and their album Mutual Friends was released. The album is quality all over, but the track that’s particularly easy to love is Little Numbers.

It’s the track that’s got BOY their most global attention after it was featured in a Lufthansa Airline ad in 2012. It’s an energetic song with a genius bass line and foot-tapping beat. Steiner’s vocals are beautiful, she enunciates clearly which is rare these days, and her variation in pitch is seamless. A dinky little piano melody changes the tempo in a simple, yet compelling fashion.

I can’t fault it. Overall a great indie-pop track that everyone should have on their playlist.

Song of the Week – Give Up Your Dreams

Give Up Your Dreams – The Phoenix Foundation

The Phoenix Foundation have released the title track from their forthcoming album Give Up Your Dreams and it’s one hell of a jam.

This song is one great contradiction. It is incredibly upbeat and makes you want to jump out of your seat and dance like it’s the 60s all over again. But take a quick listen to the lyrics, or just read the song title for that matter, and the message it sends isn’t quite as perky as you’d expect. I love that this song makes no sense, but at the same time, speaks to you. It’s a clever little track to mess with your mind and I can’t get enough of it.

My favourite bit is when an ethereal sounding voice booms across the bridge telling us:

“Don’t let anyone tell you that all your dreams will come true, don’t let anyone say that the world is your oyster, the world is not an oyster.”

To sum it up perfectly Samuel Flynn Scott says of the song: I’m screaming ‘I’m a loser and I’m losing my belief’ but the pitch shifted wiser version of myself assures me ‘you’re not a loser, you’re a human…and I love you’. It also has the sort of groove you’d be happy to motivation gym class to, so that’s a great contrast with the message. Ultimately it’s a really positive and uplifting song….The track is like the insane smile on the faces of beauty pageant contestants… Keep smiling keep smiling!”

The album Give Up Your Dreams is released on August 7.

Song of the Week – Make It Holy

Make It Holy – The Staves featuring Justin Vernon

I stumbled across The Staves last week while pining to be at Glastonbury and I haven’t been able to stop playing their song Make It Holy ever since. What a magic track. It evokes a real emotion in me as it twists and builds.

It’s been a while since I’ve heard a track with such chilling harmonies but this English accoustic folk trio made up of sisters Emily, Jessica and Camilla Staveley-Taylor, know their strengths and compliment each other superbly.

The album Make It Holy features on was produced by Justin Vernon and he accompanies them in this track. His chilling voice shines through as a softer undertone on the big lines and gives the song an extra layer that other songs on the album don’t have. It would be brilliant with just the Staveley-Taylor sisters but when Justin Vernon’s unique grunt is added it has the x-factor. This track is impossible not to love.

Have a few listens and I recommend buying their album If I Was – there’s a lot more where this came from.