Song of the Week – Life Gives You Lemons

Life Gives You Lemons – Citizen Kay

I’ve discovered this awesome Australian hip hop artist Citizen Kay and listening to his music has made me immensely happy over the last few  weeks. Life Gives You Lemons is from his debut album With The People which dropped in October.

This energetic jam has everything you want in a rap song. It reminds me a bit of Jurassic 5 and Arrested Development – it’s upbeat and catchy as hell.

For a start, the saxophone hook that plays throughout it one of the funkiest sounds I’ve heard as of late. Immediately the song is off on a bouncy and energetic track, add into that the fast-moving smart wordplay of Citizen Kay and it immediately makes you want to groove and singalong.

The Ghana-born and Canberra based MC has a good ear, Life Gives You Lemons is cleverly layered with an array of beats and various instrument melodies. I read that it’s about “being a minority but still growing up with the Aussie culture of seemingly never being phased about anything.” I like that philosophy.

Pretty neat track right here, check it out.

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Song of the Week – Cause I’m a Man

Cause I’m A Man – Tame Impala

This new track from the Aussie indie rockers is my current crank. Cause I’m A Man is the first official single from their soon to be released album Currents and it’s a damn good taste of what’s to come when the record is out on July 17th.

It’s a funky song, perfect for when you’re in a chilled mood and keen to bop your head along to something. A psychedelic synth undertone wafts throughout the song teamed up with a bass line which adds a catchy melody. In the verses Kevin Parker’s charming vocals drift across the top in a repeating scale of falsetto. But before you know it things are amped up a notch in the chorus with a grungy guitar riff and a stronger, gravelly vocal display which wakes you up from your hallucinations.  It’s a compelling listen.

There’s a lot of symmetry in this track. When I consider the level of repetition separately I feel like it should be boring. But it’s not. Somehow Tame Impala have worked their alternative magic once again and Cause I’m A Man has really struck a chord with me. Bring on more of this when Currents is released!

Song of the Week – Dream A Little Crazy

Dream A Little Crazy – Architecture in Helsinki

There’s something contagious about this song, it is a happiness serum. As soon as I hit the play button I get a bit giddy and can’t resist the urge to clap my hands in a merry fashion.

I stumbled across this track on a random Spotify playlist named “Feel Good Indie Rock” and it fits the bill perfectly. Dream A Little Crazy is off Australian indie pop band Architecture in Helsinki’s 2014 album Now + 4EVA. 

The energy that resonates from the song all makes sense when you read how the band put this record together. They recorded it in 2012, in a makeshift studio above a Melbourne cafe and get this – the space used to be a hangout for junkies. The Architecture in Helsinki guys wanted to transform the places energy from negative to positive with their music. After listening to this song, I am certain they lead a complete transformation.

Dream A Little Crazy features uplifting lyrics (see song title for an obvious example), high pitched instruments played in a fun-loving melody and contagious choir like vocals on top of a bouncy beat. All of these elements are tied together with a wonderful 80s influence, it’s an adventure to listen to! I also love how refreshingly Aussie the singers sound, there’s no disguising that twangy accent and it’s brilliant.

It’s a song I’m happy I stumbled upon because I know it’ll always put a smile on my dial when I play it.

Concert Review: Angus and Julia Stone

Angus and Julia Stone play the Opera House in Wellington
Angus and Julia Stone play the Opera House in Wellington

Last night I was lucky enough to see Angus and Julia Stone play for the second time in four months. I went along to the Opera House in Wellington knowing I was in for a great show and I was right, this Australian brother-sister duo managed to blow me away again.

Firstly I have to commend them on not having a rehearsed performance they roll out at every single gig. It pains me how often you now head along to see an artist or band for the second or third time and you are subjected to the exact same set list , repeated jokes and the same stories introducing each song. I loved that last night Angus and Julia Stone put on an entirely unique show, there was no repetition from when I saw them play in Auckland in September. Instead they just went with it and fed off the crowd, responding to requests for songs, laughing and joking along with people telling them they’re beautiful and thanking their dedicated fans. Everything in their set was new and fresh and that would see me buy a ticket to see them every time they come here, where in other cases I might opt out because I’ve ‘seen them before’. With this duo the gloss will never wear off.

It was obvious last night that the siblings have really found their sound on their latest self-titled album. The newer songs stood out, they came to life with a fantastic backing band which adds a bit more oomph to the love songs and helps to thicken up their soft voices by adding an element of rock. The set started strongly with Heart Beats Slow, in which both their voices were immediately showcased alongside each other. Julia’s fiesty, yet soft and sexy sound is complimented perfectly by her brother’s gentle and dulcet tones.

Half the magnificence of Angus and Julia Stone is the variety in their songs. Last night we got flashes of their original work which is very folk influenced, but before you knew it you’d be transported to a rock song or a fun, jazzed up cover like You’re The One That I Want from Grease. Their voices were at their best in the slow, love songs like For You and Santa Monica Dream which gave me and those seated beside me chills. But my pick of the songs in last nights set was Crash and Burn, a song that simply has to be influenced by Neil Young. It’s a bit of an Angus classic, with similar sounds to the likes of Yellow Brick Road from the album Down the Way and his solo work like Broken Brights. It’s slow and melodic with elegant lyrics and more than one crescendo guitar solo. I was riveted during the whole song. Julia’s sensual dancing in the shadow of the lights during this tune added to the effect of it all, it was quite mesmerising.

During the gig the pair announced they were loving their time in our beautiful city and of course it wasn’t long before someone in the crowd made it known that Wellington is a windy city. Julia immediately took the hint and promised the crowd that their song Private Lawns which features lyrics about the windy city being ‘mighty pretty’ was coming our way soon. When it did, we were blown away. The upbeat, bouncy song was such a fun change following on from some of their slower tracks. This was Julia’s real time to shine as a musician, she strummed along, kicking her feet up in time with the beat and annunciating the words ‘private’ and ‘public’ with popping p’s and silly facial expressions. Before you know it, the guitar is swung around behind her and she picks up the trumpet and blasts out a stunning solo that makes everyone’s mouths drop wide open. Then she barely has a moment to catch her breath before she’s straight back into the singing again – she must have amazing capacity in those lungs cause this is truly quite a remarkable thing to watch.

This morning as I reflect on the show I’ve decided the duo are in their prime. Since coming back together with the help of producer extraordinaire Rick Rubin they have really found their place in the music world and their live act is a work of art. I can’t wait to see what comes next from Angus and Julia Stone.

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!

Boy and Bear Brings Bodega to Life

Boy and Bear live at Bodega, Wellington.
Boy and Bear live at Bodega, Wellington.

Last night I headed along to Bodega to check out Australian indie rock-folk band Boy and Bear. These boys took over the place as soon as they walked on stage, they were charming performers with a stunning grasp on how to make good music and the crowd was sucked right in.

Boy and Bear plays a wonderful mix of sounds with perfection. The first section of their performance really showcased their rock sound. Tracks like Bridges and Rabbit Song had the dingy Bodega reverberating with a newfound energy. With impressive bass lines, intensive drum beats and twanging electric guitar the songs came alive on stage and for I second I forgot about the folk influence I usually associate with the group.

But that was soon fixed with tracks like Milk and Sticks and Harlequin Dream. In songs such as this, front man Dave Hosking shone. He was a confident performer, something I didn’t expect after reading an article that said he gets nervous on stage. His interaction with the audience was so refreshingly modest it made me smile the whole way through and I wished I was one of the lucky few right near the front of stage. He laughed about how close the crowd was to him as he talked to them in breaks between songs and even use ones phone to take a video of the band on stage during a song.

The group seemed ever so humble, they were obviously happy to be getting such a great response and it was really cool to see them acknowledge that without the arrogance we get from many artists these days.

The other element to their show was the softer more vocal focused songs. I had plenty of ‘close your eyes and soak it in’ moments during songs like A Moment’s Grace and Lordy May. The banjo came out, the tempo was slowed down and the group sang exquisitely. When all five of them sing together it has a chilling effect. The different tones in each of their voices compliment each other perfectly. It’s a real joy to hear five men sing in unison and Boy and Bear do it unbelievably well. When teamed up with their rock and folk influenced tracks and captivating lyrics it creates such a compelling sound.

Their magic is made even better thanks to electric guitarist Killian Gavin. What are already great songs become brilliant songs thanks to his fresh riffs and jaw-dropping blues-influence. Three Headed Woman took on a new life as Gavin busted out a grungy and energetic solo. When layered with harmonies it was truly glorious.

The lead single off their latest album Harlequin Dream was an obvious crowd favourite. As the band cranked into Southern Sun there wasn’t a face in the room without a smile on it. Everyone was clapping, dancing and singing along to the catchy folk tune.

But the real climax of the show came right in the middle of their set when they played their well-known cover of Crowded House anthem Fall At Your Feet. It was sung beautifully with a magnificent use of silence, pace and rhythm. Hosking’s vocals shone on their own only to be backed up with a spine-tingling quality when the others harmonized with him in the chorus. The song would’ve been an easy highlight of the concert on its own but the band managed to go one better when they unexpectedly but smoothly mashed it up with Neil Young’s Heart of Gold. They did it so elegantly that I think half the people in the crowd didn’t even realise the song had changed for an entire verse. It was genius.

Boy and Bear went out with a bang finishing with one of their first hits Feeding Line before taking on the softer track Big Man. It was the perfect finish to a fantastic gig to have a fast-paced rock song followed by a slowed-down more “sentimental” song as Hosking described it. Big Man was performed with a real passion which spread right across the crowd, it was a magic moment to finish on.

This band is yet to really crack the Kiwi music scene but I am confident in saying they aren’t far off. They’ve got all the star qualities and they know how to use them. A superb gig from Boy and Bear.

Song of the week – Riptide

 

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Riptide – Vance Joy

I am in serious prep mode as the countdown to Glastonbury really sets in. I’ve been dedicating special listening hours, buying all the latest albums, studying the timetable and trying to decide which acts come first. While the calibre of acts playing the festival is unreal, (it is the best music festival in the world after all) I keep coming back to listen to Aussie musician Vance Joy. This guy stands up against the biggest names of the lot when it comes to talent and Riptide, the song that got him noticed, shows exactly why he does.

The folky tune from the Melbourne singer-songwriter was released as the first single off his debut EP God Loves You When You’re Dancing in March 2013. Riptide was was voted number 1 on the 2013 Triple J Hottest 100 and went triple platinum. I wasn’t surprised because it’s a ripper of a tune and a particularly good song for summer. I can envision the Glasto crowds now dancing around happily in the sunshine as Joy brings this song to life on stage. 

A simple, yet catchy guitar strum is the basis for the song, it’s brought to life with a great drum beat which makes it impossible not to tap your feet. Then comes Joy’s voice. One word: swoon. It’s charming with a country twang, ticking the box for the alternative sounding vocals we all look forward to hearing in a new artist. Joy sings with enthusiasm in Riptide, he shows off a great range of notes, knows when to sing softly and when to crank his deeper grunt and he’s an expert at complimenting his quirky and clever lyrics with a perfectly timed ‘ooooooooh’. 

“I can’t have it, I can’t have it any other way
I swear she’s destined for the screen
Closest thing to Michelle Pfeiffer that you’ve ever seen, oh.”

I can’t wait to see this talented guy from down under rip it up on the Glastonbury stage. Check him out!

(ps. the music video is also great, see below)