Monthly Archives: September 2009

Talk Talk – Laughing Stock (1991)

Contemporary Song Cycles Pt. 2


This is, if I was made to choose, my absolute favourite album. Talk Talk’s staggering end to a uniquely varied career. Light years ahead of it’s time and as close to perfect as anything i’ve ever heard. It seems really useless to say anything more when you can just download it and see what I mean.

Please click here to sample this album.

Epithets – s/t (2010) [edited]

This album will now be released by the band on May 29. See their myspace for more information on how to purchase it, and support them.

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I’ll put it out there: I’m not a huge fan of Australian music. I usually inwardly groan when I find out a band I like is Australian. However, this record carves its own lonesome, starkly beautiful niche of minimalist, poetic, intricately arranged post-punk that I would never usually associate with the inane exuberance of most popular Australian bands.

23 year-old singer/songwriter/guitarist Nick Smethurst has a talent for getting under your skin with his silver-tongued tales of lost love and found love, astoundingly skillful songwriting and some of the most intricate, shiver-inducing guitar-work I have heard on a record in an age. And the dude is only 22. Omg.

With a literate prose that recalls the lyrical majesty of Yoni Wolf, John K. Samson and John Darnielle, I view this exquisitely lyricised gem as a form of escapism: put it on and imagine you’re wandering alone in the echoey labyrinth of a forest, reading aloud from this wondrous book of poetry. At that point, you’ll be glad you took my advice.

The Leap Year – With A Little Push, A Pattern Appears (2008)

Let’s all be honest with ourselves. When you claim even a loose association with the underground music subculture, there is a certain thrill and pride that comes with knowing about a brilliant artist or album before anyone else does. I found Jordaan Mason and Basket Of Figs etc, and I still feel a bit chuffed about it, to be frank. It’s thrilling to hunt for new music, if you’re of a certain ilk. I guess that’s the motivation behind all of us starting this blog, too – we found some things and we want you to know about them. We love the thrill of the hunt, and consider ourselves pretty well informed, keeping up to date with all the best new finds.

So how did we all miss this one? Perth band releases 7 track debut album, and the vast majority of indie persons ignore it, thereby missing out on one of the most excellent and catchy things to have come out in this country – or any other – for a good while. I have been singing these songs to myself for weeks. The two main gentlemen from this band used to be in a brilliant Melbourne outfit called Minor Ache – track their EP down if you feel like grappling with brilliant hooks alongside completely ridiculous math-esque time signatures. This album is a bit straighter, and whilst the band cite influences like Appleseed Cast, Sunny Day Real Estate, Chavez and Mice Parade pretty readily, it strikes me instead as something uniquely Australian and yet completely detached from everything the east coast is producing. Best Australian intelligent guitar record since Purplene. Go go go.

Please click here to sample this album.

Black Bear – Cinnamon Phase (2006)

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Download here

  One of my favourite finds of the past few months, this record has nearly faded into obscurity, which is awful as it’s just so damn good! One man band Sam Beebe’s only record to date is an introspective, bedroom synth-pop  12 track  journey (a song for every month, so he says) that really makes you wonder what the stories behind the songs are. Think a more poetically-lyricised Casiotone For The Painfully Alone. I was inspired to listen to this dude after finding this artwork by graphic artist Melinda Boyce.

 


Kind Of Like Spitting – One Hundred Dollar Room (2002)

Contemporary Song Cycles Pt. 1

“Initially, it is hard to hear what all the fuss is about because it sounds so very derivative of other contemporaries. Like an unfinished demo tape, it seems tantalisingly close to greatness. So close in fact that it all begins to make sense eventually. Like early Guided By Voices or Lou Barlow at his most inspired, there seems to be real thought behind every decision on One Hundred Dollar Room. Slowly, the genius of Kind of Like Spitting emerges and in other hands, this could all end up being clichéd, but Barnett just seems to know how to arrange songs in a satisfying way. He packs a lot into short periods of time, both lyrically and musically, and doesn’t really put a wrong foot here.” – Exclaim Magazine

Ben Barnett has an impressively broad and diverse body of work under the name Kind Of Like Spitting. In addition to his tenure as the original guitarist for the Thermals, amongst other things, he also put out some 9 albums under said moniker between 2000 and 2005. Some were lo-fi bedroom masterpieces, one was even a big studio production featuring drums and vocals from Ben Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie. Throughout it all, Ben made honest art, and that’s something I respect massively.

I am an ardent fan of almost all of it-  and there are, admittedly, albums of his that I think are better. This one is the real grower amongst them though. It took me the longest to “get”, and I consider it to be something you must absorb as a whole body of work. Songs reference each other. Segues are present. If you listen closely, you’ll hear a clever, devastating and excellent album that veers between cute acoustic indie pop and huge guitar blazers. Think early Mountain Goats alongside Rites Of Spring maybe. Hell, it even closes with a Billy Bragg cover. Damn.

I can provide links to other KOLS albums if anyone wants, but as I decided to get in on the idea of Song Cycle albums, this is what i’m sharing with you now. Let me know what you think.

Please click here to sample this album.

Washed Out – Life of Leisure (2009)

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It’s going to more than a little difficult to beat the brevity and overall excellence of the official description so I may just leave it at that. “Washed Out is Ernest Greene, a young guy from Georgia (via South Carolina) who makes bedroom synthpop that sounds blurred and woozily evocative, like someone smeared Vaseline all over an early OMD demo tape, then stayed up all night trying to recreate what they heard.”

There’s also definite nods to Moon Safari present as well.

Sample.

Myspace.

Van Dyke Parks – Song Cycle (1968)

Three of us four bloggers were amongst a limited crowd who got to see Mr Parks perform at the weekend just gone. It was a completely unbelievable honour. This man has done more to shape contemporary music than I can begin to express. I hardly feel the need or desire to biography-write, but if you’ve worked with the Beach Boys, Frank Black AND Joanna Newsom, there shouldn’t be many people not suitably impressed. But oh, oh, this record. Someone remarked to me that it sounds like Parenthetical Girls – sure, except this is now 41 years old. Download this (in 256k bit rate), and listen to the whole thing – the way it was meant to be played. It is a singularly important AND enjoyable piece of music history, and deserves to be more than the footnote it sadly sits as.

Please click here to sample this album.

(starting tomorrow, i’m going to start posting some more albums I consider to fit within the idea of a “song cycle”, so please check back if this interests you.)