Song of the Week – Way Down We Go

Way Down We Go – Kaleo

My friend recently introduced me to Icelandic rock band Kaleo and I was an instant fan. About 20 seconds into my first listen of Way Down We Go I was in love with their sound – a fresh combination of rock, folk and blues.

This song, the first release from Kaleo’s excellent new album A/B which came out June 10th, has picked up a lot of play in the US and is just getting its first rounds on Radio Hauraki here in NZ. It featured in a range of TV series which helped get it off the ground, this include Suits, Orange Is the New Black and Blindspot.

But really it doesn’t need any explanation, it just needs you to take the time to listen. This band is something special and Way Down We Go is the perfect song to start your new love affair with the group.

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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 – Stay In My Corner

Stay In My Corner – The Arcs

Right now I can’t get enough of the Arcs and their album Yours, Dreamily. This is the new band from one half of the wonderful The Black Keys. Dan Auerbach teamed up with an array of diverse artists to create the record in just two weeks in a Brooklyn studio. He got the opportunity to make this bit of different music while bandmate Patrick Carney nurses a tour-cancelling shoulder injury. The Arcs includes Truth and Soul Records founder Leon Michels, the Black Keys touring bassist Richard Swift, Menahan Street Band member Homer Steinweiss, Amy Winehouse collaborator Nick Movshon, guitarist Kenny Vaughan, and all the members of all-female mariachi band Mariachi Flor de Toloache.

Dan Auerbach has described the album as “pretty weird” – so if he’s right, weird is now a good thing.

Throughout Yours, Dreamily there are shades of each of the Keys albums influencing certain tracks and it makes for compelling listening. My current pick of the songs is Stay In My Corner, a song about a break up told in a boxing metaphor inspired by this years Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao bout.

This is a slow rock jam of epic proportions. In classic Dan Auerbach style it is effortlessly cool. It’s hard to escape the similarities to the Black Keys entirely when the lead vocalist and writer has a very distinctive sound, but there’s something a bit softer about the Arcs and Stay In My Corner showcases that. All of those funky riffs and melodies we love in the Black Keys work, go just as well with this more laid-back base sound as they do with the more drum-lead and upbeat Keys tunes.

I’m ready to crank this tune over and over while having a few beers in the summer sun (she writes on a rainy day -sigh).

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 – 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