Category: Music

Sketch-notes – Swing is the Soul of the Groove

Dick Rijken keynote
ALIA Information Online 2013

Dick Rijken’s keynote Swing is the Soul of the Groove¬†was one that I arranged, so again, maybe I am biased here, but I loved it. It seemed to me at least that the whole week flowed into his final keynote and he nicely wrapped up many of the main themes. He stressed culture over the vogue words: creativity and innovation. He illustrated his points with visual and musical storytelling and I was in two minds as to whether I should just watch or try to record some thoughts and reminders.

It was fantastic to hear someone of his standing reminding us of the importance of things like ambiguity, not knowing or understanding,¬†romanticism,¬†aestheticism, experimentation and trusting our intuition. All are hard to tie down, to justify or to measure quantitatively, but in the end are they not some of the things that distinguish us from robots or automatons? And certainly I think they are critical to our sector. For too long I think we’ve been obsessed with making things more efficient, more specialised, less connected and easily measured. We need to rediscover the underlying meaning in what we do. As Dick said, an artistic mentality can be very helpful to us in finding that meaning and in truly understanding what we are supposed to be doing.

I was fortunate enough to spend a lot of time with Dick last week and to present a workshop with him last Friday. Not only did I learn a great deal from him, I was stimulated and energised by the many discussions we had.

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2011 Music (post 3 of 4)

Grouplove: Never Trust a Happy Song.
*****
Gypsy & The Cat: Gilgamesh.
****

Jinja Safari (EP).
****

The Middle East: I want that you are always happy.
****

The Naked and Famous: Passive Me, Aggressive You.
****

Grouplove: They play happy music and I always trust happy music. I absolutely love this album and was lucky enough to see them in a smallish Sydney venue live in mid-2011. They’re brilliant, new, original, enjoy playing together and just so enthusiastic about their music. So much energy they just make you want to jump about or thump something in time with their beat! I love the clapping, the guitars, the teeth, the hair, the vocals, the stomping, the screaming and the words. They are like crazy animals released live on stage. It is all good. The first song I heard was Colours and I knew I would love whatever they did. Then I was wild for Naked Kids and soon came Itchin’ On a Photograph and its brilliant video and I especially love Andrew Wessen’s guitar work right at the end of the song. I also love his vocals and ukelele playing on Spun. Love Will Save Your Soul is another powerful song backed by guitar work that I find addictive. Hannah Hooper painted the art work on the album cover. Her vocals are wonderful. They have it. They use it. They do it.
Dancing, California, Rock, Fun, Energy, Pace.

Gypsy & The Cat: Yeah, so they unashamedly echo the soft rock of the 80s like Boston and Toto, but I like this album more than the original tunes that might have inspired them. There are a good number of instantly likeable tunes and the hit tune Time to Wander had a fantastic music video set outside the Tate Modern staring Art Malik that just mesmerised me. I don’t really like Jona Vark, but others like The Piper’s Song, Parallel Universe and Breakaway are great.
80s, Pop, Tate Modern, Dancing.

Jinja Safari (EP): I was really into Peter Pan in late 2010, but I think that I didn’t buy this EP until 2011 and I’m including it in this list because I think the real highlight on the EP is the haunting Stepping Stones. It is a very beautiful song and entirely under-rated. Their music reminds me of Yes. MGMT and Fleet Foxes. An odd mix, I know.
Hippies, Happiness, Dancing, Jumping, Bush.

The Middle East: They are very hard to label but I think they have an alternative folk rock sound not unlike Fleet Foxes for the most part and I like them a lot. It is a pity that this is their second and last album. I was lucky enough to see and hear them perform live at the Metro soon after the release of this album and they’re even better live. Their live performance is much stronger and more energetic than the finessed studio production of this album. I really like Hunger Song and The Land of the Bloody Unknown. I still cannot believe that this band came out of Townsville. Some of their music is truly beautiful.
Bush, Australia, Country, Driving, Sadness.

The Naked and Famous: This is another electro-pop album that I love with many great and varied tracks. It deservedly scored 8/10 from an NME review. They’re from New Zealand and their music is instantly engaging. Young Blood certainly is a highlight and an obvious single, but so too are Punching in  Dream,  Eyes, the fascinating Jilted Lovers and All Of This. On some of those tracks you almost cannot tell it is the same band. I’d love to see them live. For most of their music you just cannot sit still. It just makes you want to get up and start stomping and jumping around.
80s, Pop, Energy, Darkness, Parties.

2011 Music (post 2 of 4)

Cut Copy: Zonoscope.
****
Death Cab for Cutie: Codes And Keys.
****
Digitalism: I Love You, Dude.
***
Fleet Foxes: Helplessness Blues.
*****
Gotye: Like Drawing Blood.
*

So, the second post …

Cut Copy: This is nearly a *****. Just off it really. I was lucky enough to see them live in June and I think they’re brilliant. As soon as they started playing nearly everyone at the Sydney Opera House was out of their seats dancing. The album is great, but if I stick strictly with my rating system there are a couple of annoying tracks, so it becomes a ****. I was so glad that they are fantastic live and good entertainers as well as good in the studio. My highlights are Dan Whitford (especially the way he moves on stage), Need You Now and Where I’m Going.  
Dance. Electronics. Design. Escape. Movement.


Death Cab For Cutie: Another good album panned on Pitchfork. I hadn’t really been a fan, but I bought this album for the single You Are a Tourist which I thought had a stunning music video. It was shot live in one take using multiple camera and without any editing or re-takes. I love it. I shoved a few of the tracks onto an iPod that I use when walking, running or at the gym and it has really grown on me as an album. Unobstructed Views is probably too long for release as a single, but I really like the way it gently introduces you to its theme and how Ben Gibbard’s echo-ey vocals come in late. They hold back. It is good.  There is some great guitar band work on many tracks too. There are some parallels with Cut Copy here and I see Cut Copy have remixed the track Doors Unlocked and Open on the remixed EP.
Experience. Guitars. Unique vocals.


Digitalism: Unfairly dismissed as a “rehash” by Pitchfork, this is a good album. If you like Electronica, the album has more than a few tracks that soon grow on you like Circles, Blitz and Stratosphere, but my fave is Two Hearts.
Germany. New media. Youth. Gay.


Fleet Foxes: I don’t know why it has taken me so long to get into Fleet Foxes, but I love them. They remind me of The Middle East, but it should be the reverse. I like Robin Pecknold’s lyrics and his vocals, I like the stomping beat on Battery Kinzle and I like the gentle and the strumming guitar, the harmonies, the fiddle, the mandolin and the lap steel. Helplessness Blues is an instantly loveable track. The composition is genius. The transition in tempo and feeling just after half-way is beautiful and breath-taking. They are another band that remind me of all of the best things about the US. Another really beautiful track is Lorelai and I love the different infectious feel and rhythmic pulse of Great Ocean. They have a big and devoted following, but it seems to me that they play music that they love playing together regardless of what anyone else thinks. And that is a good thing.
The US. Grass. Roots. Country. Life.


Gotye: I have no idea what everyone raves about. It is one for my sister I’m afraid. To me it seems like he is trying to prove how versatile and talented he is in many genres. Maybe he thinks he is another Rufus Wainwright?
Nothing nice springs to mind.

2011 Music (post 1 of 4)

Bag Raiders.
***
Bat for Lashes: Two suns.
***
Bon Iver: Bon Iver.
*****
Boy & Bear: Moonfire.
***
Coldplay: Mylo Xyloto.
*****

My semi-annual review of the musics that I bought in the previous year. They were not all released in 2011, I just bought the CDs in 2011. Yes.


Bag Raiders: I was obsessed with the single Shooting Stars in 2009. I loved the way it held a lot back and the way they built up the keyboard riff. I still think it is brilliant. I bought this album because of Way Back Home and that too is brilliant. Sunlight is another excellent track.
Dancing. Marieke Hardy. Running. Sydney. Triple J. 2009.


Bat for Lashes: I am a bit late to the party here, but I went to see them/her at the Opera House in June 2011 because of the album Two Suns and wasn’t disappointed. A brilliant show and it really was fantastic live music. The highlight songs for me are Sleep Alone, Moon and Moon and Daniel.
Red. Heart. Haunting. Sometimes sad. Art.


Bon Iver: I didn’t want to buy this album. Everyone was raving about it. Now I know why. I think it is one of my faves now. Virtually every track is wonderful, if a teeny bit similar. I like Justin Vernon’s vocals but they may be not everyone’s taste. I hear echoes and strains of Peter Broderick, Sufjan Stevens and Bruce Hornsby (particularly on Beth/Rest) here. The music does remind me of America, particularly of the first time I flew across the Rockies and the Grand Canyon in the 1980s, listening to Bruce Hornsby on a Walkman. It is pretty rare when I can say that I like every track on an album and I do here.
Soft. Emotions. The US. Rockies. Grand Canyon.


Boy & Bear: This was a late purchase. Maybe I shouldn’t be reviewing it yet as I’ve not listened to it enough. Some tracks are brilliant though and it is obvious that the band is both very talented and modest. I liked the list they put together for Rage one night and what they had to say to introduce some of the artists and songs that inspire them. Feeding Line is an obvious single, but there are other great tracks like Milk & Sticks (which has a great change of tempo) and Lordy May.
Ireland. The bush. Tempo.


Coldplay: I’ve been a fan since Parachutes. They seem to polarize people and many think it is cool to hate them. I don’t know why. Triple J are too cool for Coldplay, but most of their dead-head presenters probably secretly wish they were as cool as Chris Martin. I don’t think Chris is up himself at all; I think he is just tired of lame questions from even lamer DJs and VJs. Mylo Xyloto is a brilliant album: the kind of album most professional musicians wish they could put together. It will long be remembered after most contemporary music is simply forgotten. The class of production (by Markus Dravs, Daniel Green and Rik Simpson) is so far above the rest that it reminds me of the brilliance of Phil Spector at the height of his talent. I think the influence of Brian Eno is still evident too. I love Paradise and Every Teardrop is a Waterfall. Both are anthemic, dramatic, beautifully composed and typically Coldplay. Once again I like every track and with Coldplay, there is a little surprise on each track that is a joy to unpack. I don’t know how they do it.
Lights. Drama. Genius. Completeness. Entertainment. English rock. Music.

Oh, just to explain my five * rating system:
***** rare, love the whole album, genius or bordering on genius, never tire of it.
**** mostly loved, only have to skip a few tracks, nearly great.
*** has a few great tracks that I love.
** either disappointing or not to my taste.
* wish I didn’t buy it; may give it to my sister.