Song of the Week – Anna

Song of the Week – Anna by Will Butler

Will Butler, one of the many geniuses behind Arcade Fire, has released his first solo album Policy. It’s all pretty impressive stuff but the second released single Anna, is just superb. To me, it’s the catchiest song of the year.

It may be a simple track lyrically but that is more than made up for by it’s energy. The song bumps and bounces along in such a fashion it’s impossible not to shimmy along with it as you listen. In fact, I’ve just realised my typing has even synced into a tapping pattern as I listen and write.

Arcade Fire is famous for its longer songs which build with emphasis as they roll along, but Will Butler’s solo work takes the short and sharp approach and it’s just as effective. Anna doesn’t mess around, right from the get go there’s a strong drum beat, a funky synth rhythm and repetitive vocals and these don’t let up throughout the song. Butlers falsetto’s at the start of the chorus are such an enthralling contrast to his lower tone as he echoes the last word of the line “cause you got to get money”.

This song is contagious, refreshingly unique and happy. I just love everything about it!

If you are a fan do have a decent listen to Policy. It is a fantastic album with a lot of light and shade. Butler teamed up with The Guardian newspaper and wrote five of the songs on it around news headlines. This makes for fascinating listening as he portrays his take on ISIS, the Greek economy, black holes and more. At an Arcade Fire concert Will Butler always stands out on stage, which is credit to him given how entertaining all of the band members are. I’m thrilled to be able to explore his own talents in this solo album.

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Concert Review: The Phoenix Foundation

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The Phoenix Foundation are the quintessential Wellington band to check out at a gig at San Fran. Why? They’re right at home there and know how to put on a damn good show. Tonight’s concert was no different.

The start of their Give Up Your Dreams album tour went down better than an ice cold beer for a crowd full of longtime fans who got the perfect set list to thank them for their ongoing support.

The bands earliest work had easily won me over before a few experimental records lost me in the middle, but this latest album is easily their greatest effort yet and tonight’s gig really showcased that. While the old favourites rang true, the new tracks were the most vibrant, energetic and dance inducing. They stood out a mile above the rest which was lucky considering it was a ‘GUYD’ heavy set.

The show was roaring from the get go with Mountain immediately setting the tone of their new live sound before Bob Lennon John Dylan – played with attitude – had every crowd member screaming the lyrics in perfect time with their pumping fists and jiving feet.

Another standout from the GUYD album was Prawn which slowed things down but in a melodic, magical fashion. These new tracks bring out a bizarre new dance style which has you tapping and swooping your feet in fast motion while moving your upper half in a hippy-like dazed fashion. It works surprisingly well – I promise.

Before long the guys, lead by an always enchanting Samuel Flynn Scott and Luke Buda, took us back “14 years” (sadly not 40 Years as many were hoping) and busted out a stunning rendition of Going Fishing. In the journey back through their work came Buffalo, a middle of the set highlight echoed passionately by the crowd, and Bright Grey which was performed with a contagious ferocity.

There’s something refreshing about The Phoenix Foundation and their don’t give a damn attitude. The guys are there to play their music the way they want to and nobody else will have a say in it. In a venue like San Fran this sits perfectly with the audience who’re happy to be taken in whatever random direction the group wants to go.

The set came to a radiant finish with the title track of the album provoking a singalong to be proud of for such a recent release. There’s something wonderfully satisfying about screaming lyrics with a depressing message like “don’t let anyone say that the world is your oyster, the world is not an oyster” when the music is invoking the complete opposite emotional reaction in you.

My only criticism tonight was that the encore wafted a bit and could’ve been brought together for one final hit singalong instead of fading out in a haze of synth sounds. But that is a mere afterthought. The Phoenix Foundation have been a New Zealand indie institution for more than a decade now, but they’re only getting better and this concert was proof of that.

Get along to see them on their NZ tour and you’ll be glad to GIVE UP YOUR DREAMS!

Song of the Week – Electric Love

Electric Love – BØRNS

This song is so catchy I can’t get enough. BØRNS have started getting a lot of airplay as of late and when you listen to this song you’ll know why. It’s an energetic, unique and punchy take on today’s much loved indie-rock genre.

BØRNS is the brain child of Garrett Borns, an American from Michigan who has a falsetto voice like nothing you’ve heard before. Backed up with jazzy drum beats and echoey synth sounds his voice is contagiously energetic.

Electric Love is the sort of song that makes you want to turn it up really loud in the car while banging the beat on the steering wheel and screaming really ridiculously high in an attempt to hit the main chorus hook.

It’s an awful lot of fun to listen to, I highly recommend you giving it a try. BØRNS will be featuring on all the festival line ups before you know it.

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.

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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 – 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 – 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!