Concert Review: alt-J


Last night I was swept up in the romanticism of alt-J. The moment the first chord of 3WW filled the TSB Bank Arena in Wellington I knew we were in for a treat and things only got better from there.

The British indie rock group performed to perfection last night, I couldn’t fault a thing, their set contained everything you want to get from a gig. Their set list was well thought out with a perfect mix of light and shade between the hand clapping, base thumping, upbeat numbers and the slow builders which had an almost symphony like feel to them, despite being produced with a purely modernistic sound.

The light show timed perfectly to match their beat focused music was simplistic yet mesmerising. Their crowd communication, was limited but this worked well because I felt like I was party to a true stage show and the songs were speaking well enough for themselves.

The new album RELAXER was showcased brilliantly with new songs interspersed amongst the old favourites. Not that I would have cared if they played new music start to finish- I think these tracks really stood out and proved the three uni mates have come along way from their first offering. Pleader was the track our group raved and raved about all the walk home, Deadcrush was easily my pick of the faster paced tracks played during the night and In Cold Blood picked up one of the better sing-and-dance-alongs of the night.

The unique vocals of lead singer Joe Newman were dominant over the loud base music and he didn’t miss a note. Gus Unger-Hamilton’s backing vocals are the perfect compliment and he and drummer Thom Sunny Green played the complex, layered and loud songs to perfection. The bands ability to perform their complicated songs such as Every Other Freckle, Bloodflood and Fitzpleasure to such a high quality live is testament to their true musicianship. There is a lot going on in most of these songs, but every element was always heard by the crowd and no songs lost their momentum or blurred.

The other thing that has to be mentioned is the crowd – that is the best gig audience I have been a part of in a long time. There was no talking through every song, everyone there was fully invested and I think the band recognised that. They did seem to mention coming back to Wellington many times!

I feel privileged to have witnessed alt-J at their best last night, certainly a concert to remember!



Song of the Week – 3WW

3WW – alt-J

English indie group alt-J’s new track is dreamy. 3WW is a slow-building mesmeriser. Whatever you do upon first listen, don’t cut it off early, keep going right till the end and it won’t disappoint.

3WW features a more gentle melody than their previous works, it’s lullaby-like for much of the song. But don’t you worry -the alt-J trademarks still shine through loud and clear, they just have new twists. For example – a woman’s vocals (Wolf Alice’s Ellie Rowsell) adds a refreshing new element to the quirky male vocals we’ve come to love from lead singer Joe Newman.

I must say, I’m a big fan of all their old work, but I love being able to follow the lyrics in this song more clearly than in previous tunes. Captivating poetry shines through:

“There was a wayward lad
Stepped out one morning
The ground to be his bed
The sky his awning”

The song has mellow use of synth and soft drum beats throughout but cleverly inserts bursts of crescendo which take the song from being a cafe style easy-listener to a well-thought out and cleverly crafted single.

This is the first track off the bands upcoming album Relaxer. It reflects the album name as it is a more subdued style song for the group but I think it’s an interesting new direction and I can’t wait to hear more.

Best Picks from Sunday at Glastonbury 2015

1. Ryan Adams – Stay With Me

I can’t get enough of Ryan Adams at the moment and this is why. I don’t think this performance needs a caption, he’s just wonderful.

2. Alt-J – Left Hand Free

These guys are one of the most insane live acts around today. Their music takes on another life on stage, particularly the material from their latest album This Is All Yours. There wouldn’t have been a person in the crowd not loving this set.

3. The Staves featuring Justin Vernon – Make It Holy

I had never heard of the Staves until now, but boy am I glad I found them. Even better that in this track they have the glorious Justin Vernon accompanying their already spine-tingling vocals. Stunning!

4. Chemical Brothers – Saturate

The electronic dance duo know how to turn what could be a boring stage view of two DJs spinning decks into a spectacle. There wouldn’t have been a dull moment in the whole set.

5. Hozier – Someone New

This modern day rocker seems to be able to do no wrong in his gigs, this set it a really good watch.

The Falls Festival Awards

Firstly, apologies for the lack of posts over the last month.

I’m back at work now after a wonderful three week holiday and as the dust settles I keep remembering my trip away.

I spent New Year in Byron Bay, Australia and attended the Falls Festival.

It was a great event, although a bit too hot for my liking, the musicians were outstanding and the vibe was wonderful.

So here are my 2014 Falls Festival Byron Bay Awards.

Falls Festival Byron Bay
Falls Festival, Byron Bay

The ‘best of the best’ award:


For the whole hour long set I was in heaven. I never imagined this band could sound quite so good live! I have to admit I thought their voices just wouldn’t compare in real life, I imagined they were rather computerised. Boy was I wrong. Frontman Joe Newman is a singing legend. His tone, pitch, energy and even annunciation were perfect, add into the mix his unique sound and you’ve obviously got a winning combo. His voice echoed across the Valley stage and filled you up with a sense of awe. alt-J rattled through the hits from their first record like Breezeblocks, Matilda, Tessellate and Taro and everyone in the audience was in music heaven. They brought to life every song they played off their new album, Hunger of the Pine was spine-tingling material, Left Hand Free was a massive singalong and Nara was mesmerising. I was completely spell-bound. Newman and his gang were kind performers who had a lovely rapport with the crowd, played the songs everyone wanted to hear in stunning fashion and just generally kicked ass. It was such an amazing concert I still don’t know how to best describe it other than to say it was incredible. If you haven’t seen them live yet, don’t miss tickets to their next show.

The ‘next big thing’ award:

George Ezra

When I took a look around the crowd at his set and saw a mass of people, most of who were singing every word to songs from his debut album Wanted on Voyage it was evident everyone around the world has fallen in love with George Ezra as fast as I have. This was the third time in six months that I had seen Ezra play and in that time he’s already learnt to act like a superstar who’s been performing all his life. He started the set sending shivers down everyone’s spine as he came on stage and sang the intro of Did You Hear The Rain unaccompanied. Ezra sounded as good with no backing as many artists would with a full choir behind them, his voice was simply beautiful. I spent most of the hour dancing to a number of tracks from his album like Blame It On Me, Listen To The Man and Cassy O’, the songs were energetic and upbeat while still being pretty darn breathtaking. Of course hit first single Budapest drew in a big crowd and was very popular, and despite me knowing his album and E.P back to front, he still played new material and it was fantastic, so there’s a lot more to come from him! It is clear watching the 21-year-old that he is going to be around for a long time and is going to go a long way.

The Forest Stage
The Forest Stage

The ‘electronica god’ award:


The Icelandic singer-songwriter was such a great act to watch on a sunny afternoon, lazing on the grassy banks of the Forest stage. He started the set slowly, playing some more laid-back tunes which reverberated across the crowd and had everyone toe-tapping and nodding in time with the beat. It was such a relaxing vibe and I was loving it but the best bit came when he stepped it up a notch with a rousing cover of Nirvana’s song Heart Shaped Box. Within minutes the crowd was more attentive and singing along, captivated by his sassy falsettos. Going Home was another highlight while King and Cross blew me away and has been playing on repeat on my iPod ever since. The song was electric, the audience was buzzing and Asgeir absolutely killed it.

The ‘impossibly fun’ award:


This was the well-known Aussie band’s second to last performance ever. They’re heading their separate ways shortly and everyone at Falls knew this was a gig you didn’t want to miss. One thing’s for sure, you’d be kicking yourself if you did. The Sydney boys put on the show of a lifetime. The Forest stage tent became a sweaty pit of people dancing and screaming so hard they looked like they’d faint, I certainly felt that way, but it was worth it because I had so much fun enjoying every minute of their set. They had a contagious energy which spread across the crowd and seemed to take over peoples bodies. Songs like Act Yr Age, Vitriol, Ain’t Telling the Truth and their spaced out cover of Lana Del Rey’s Video Games were all brilliant. The finale of Broken Leg was on a whole other level. It was impossible not to grin with a feverish happiness during the whole hour. I loved it and so did everyone else, the Bluejuice boys were the talk of the festival.


The ‘ones to watch’ award: 

Milky Chance

This German folk duo was a real joy to watch on stage. Their music is such a fresh sound in a time when a lot of songs sound the same. Singer Clemens Rehbein has a voice like no one else. He croons with a fierce energy and his vocals echoed out across the Falls valley magnificently. He’s supported wonderfully by Philip Dausch whose production cleverly changes the songs from being a laidback acoustic to a more electronica sound which is hard to resist. The pairs tunes are funky numbers, something which seems to stem from their background in jazz music. I highly recommend checking them out.

The ‘surprise superstar’ award:

La Roux

I’ll admit, La Roux wasn’t exactly on my list of acts I was desperate to see so when my friend and I went to check her out we were quite literally blown away. She was such a great performer. Her stunning voice was pitch perfect, powerful and punchy. She ruled the stage like she’s done it since she was a child. There was not a single person in the audience not dancing and singing up a storm and it was so much fun to experience.

The ‘so good it makes you cry’ award:

John Butler Trio

I don’t know what it is about this man but he has an incredible ability to make me cry. I’ve seen him in concert many a times and he’s a brilliant musician I’ll never tire of seeing. In a set with the John Butler Trio you get a taste of everything a concert should have. The songs so bouncy you can’t physically sit still, the vocals that strike a chord with you, the lyrics that make you laugh as you sing them (or try to keep up with him singing them in his case), the kind of crowd interaction that keeps everyone focused and silent and of course, the mind-blowing guitar playing that brings tears to your eyes. John Butler slowed things down a little mid-set and played Ocean, his twelve minute instrumental on an eleven-string guitar. It’s a song that he adapts slightly each time he plays and there is not a person in the world that wouldn’t be blown away by this song, especially when watching him play it live with such incredible passion. Check out the video below to get some idea of how amazing he is and how perfectly Ocean showcases his talents.

Song of the Week – Talk Is Cheap

Chet Faker aka Nick Murphy
Chet Faker aka Nick Murphy

Triple J listeners have named their top ten albums for 2014 and Chet Faker’s Built on Glass has cracked the number one spot. He’s even beaten the likes of alt-J to get there. I’m not surprised, it’s such a great record that gets regular playtime on my stereo. For that reason, I decided Talk Is Cheap will be my song of the week.

At first the song by the Aussie musician – real name Nick Murphy – takes me back to summers filled with the dub sounds of Kiwi group Salmonella Dub with the horns blaring. But it’s not long before Murphy’s James Blake like electronica beats emerge giving it some real modern substance. Add to that his echoing vocals and all the elements of the song come together. When slowed down, mashed up and layered over one another the effect is quite magical.

Often electronica songs today lack one thing, good lyrics and a focus on vocals. Talk Is Cheap is special because it avoids this. Murphy’s lyrics actually mean something, they tell a story and aren’t just random burbling’s of whatever sounds good with the beat. The words and the way they’re sung carry the track. His sultry voice adds that little extra, taking it from a head-bopping, foot-tapping song that you’d play in a cafe on a Sunday morning – to the kind of song you want to put on in the middle of the party and groove to. They take it from a tune you’d move slowly to at a concert, not interacting with the crowd around you, keeping your mouth closed – to the kind of song you would be screaming along to, turning to those around you to sing your favourite line, even if that is done in a more mellow mood than you might at a Taylor Swift concert.

Talk Is Cheap is a wonderful song that’s dominating the electronica genre for me currently. Check it out!