Concert Review: alt-J

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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!

 

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Song of the Week – When I Don’t Speak

Terrible Sons – When I Don’t Speak

My latest song of the week award goes to Kiwi duo Terrible Sons, made up of Lauren (AKA L A Mitchell) and Matt Barus (of DUKES), for their new release When I Don’t Speak. The pair have been releasing one track a year since 2015 and each has made for compelling listening. Now they’re set to release their first album in September.

This ballad has stirred something inside of me the more I’ve listened to it. The verse begin withs a gentle guitar strum and short piano melody which repeat over each other. Their simplicity and the softness with which they are played give the song an immediate tenderness.

Then add to the mix the beautifully performed vocals and When I Don’t Speak takes on a whole other layer. Together, the duo’s contrasting voices create an emotional sound which can be prone to sending shivers down your spine. This effect also seems to come about for me when it builds into the stunning piano solo towards the end.

This song is soft and simple production wise. The lyrics, melody and vocal performance carry enough weight on their own and producer Ben Edwards is clever for recognising that. I particularly recommend playing this track and soaking it up when you need a quiet moment, or on a slow and rainy day.

I for one can’t wait to discover more songs like when their album release rolls round in September.

 

Song of the Week – On the Level

On the Level – Mac DeMarco

Indie hero Mac DeMarco is bit by bit releasing tracks from his forthcoming album This Old Dog due out on May 5th and so far, it’s all great stuff.

The three songs he’s pre-released from This Old Dog retain the zesty sound of his older work but have more depth. On the Level is the latest offering and it’s a compelling listen. It is is more intricate and layered than other hits of his. With shades of Tame Impala shining through, this groovy track has a hook which is hard to ignore and a base line which makes you want to move. It’s a mellow song but it still packs a lot of punch. Chuck it on loud and feel yourself moving and bopping.

On the Level is a song that makes you sit up and listen. Bring on May 5th for more of this!

 

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.

Song of the Week – The Trouble With Us

The Trouble With Us- Chet Faker and Marcus Marr

We have Twitter to thank for this snazzy song. Chet Faker obviously had a bit of a crush on the work Marcus Marr was creating, he tweeted a link to one of his songs and the pair connected online. They quickly realised they had some exciting ideas and came together to collaborate on the EP Work which was released in December.

The first single from the EP, The Trouble with Us, has taken Australia by storm. The fact it took out the #6 spot on the Triple J Hot 100 proves that. I imagine New Zealand’s charts are next in line for domination, or at least they should be.

This track is a fresh kind of funky. It features a sped-up piano base line, synth sounds of every kind, a bouncy guitar riff and that classic DJ style drum beat which immediately makes you want to dance. Faker’s exotic vocals blend the layers of sound together superbly. This song infects you from start to finish. ENJOY.

 

Concert Review: Tame Impala

Tame Impala

The stereotypes that come with a psychedelic rock band are completely thrown out the window when you witness Tame Impala live – Kevin Parker and his band are a class act.

Last night at Shed 6 in Wellington there were swirling colourful lights akin to something from the LSD heyday, guitar riffs to send you into a head spin and drum beats to make you shake – and it all came without the sloppy rockstar antics I’ve come to expect from other bands within this genre.

Australian Kevin Parker is a musical genius and his accomplished band bring his songs to life in a manner like nothing I’ve quite seen before. From get go I was entranced. They burst on stage and built momentum as an incredible light and graphic show, which would mesmerise us all night long, filled the stage. The reverberating base lines kicked in and the echoing synth took flight as Intro built the tension. It was the perfect lead into Let It Happen, which immediately bewitched the crowd. The epic song of 2015, Tame Impala’s first single off new album Currents, twisted and turned for eight minutes of magic. Lyrics were screamed, air guitars imitated the ever-changing riffs and feet and hands slapped along to the enchanting beat. It was heaven for Tame fans and the perfect way to kick the night off.

The audience was next treated to some older tracks like Mind Mischief, Why Won’t They Talk To Me and It’s Not Meant To Be. Each song was played to perfection with Parkers ethereal falsetto vocals soaring above the grungy base brought together so brilliantly by a talented set of musicians. Of course, Parker is the brains behind the business, he writes, performs and produces all of his songs, but without this stunning band, his famous live set wouldn’t be so well polished. Jay Watson, Dominic Simper, Cam Avery and Julien Barbagallo are faultless and their onstage personas sit perfectly alongside Parker. As for the main man, he is humble and grateful, has simple and short interactions with the audience and doesn’t get up to any outrageous stage antics but knows the perfect moment to swing his guitar high in the air, throw his cup of drink over the crowd or start the crowd clapping or singing.

This tour was of course to showcase Tame’s new material and it is fantastic stuff. For me, the tracks off Currents were a class above the rest, it seems like Parker has now perfected his art. The Moment, Cause I’m a Man and Yes I’m Changing move away from the loud noise of earlier songs and were more refined in my opinion. The lyrics are more meaningful and easier to follow and the melodies are clearer, all this while still maintaining the trippy rock sound Tame is famous for.

But it was still older track Elephant that was the clear crowd favourite and it was performed with finesse. The audience, filled with a number of long haired and bearded Parker lookalikes, danced up a storm and sang their hearts out as the band came alive during what is obviously one of their best-loved tunes as well.

Another clear highlight came in the encore as we were treated to Feels Like We Only Go Backwards before things closed on a monumental take on Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control. Tame Impala left the stage of their final show this tour, as the synth still hummed and the lights still swirled and everyone in the crowd remained completely hypnotised. Nobody wanted it to be over, the show was just that good.

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.