March album reviews

Methyl Ethel – Everything is Forgotten

I really love Methyl Ethel’s song ‘Ubu’, which appears up front on the band’s second album Everything is Forgotten. The vocals are intriguing and distinctively Jake Webb’s, the hook is catchy and the chorus has one of those lines that just keeps creeping back into your head. The problem, though, is that the song contributes to a major flaw of the band’s second album. In isolation, the lengthy repetition of the lyric “why’d you have to go and cut your hair” is fun; but when batched in with a bunch of other tracks that employ a similar tactic it gets frustrating. This isn’t to say they’re musically similar – there is in fact a clever display of creative variance throughout – but to have at least six tracks refrains repeated a few too many times is kind of annoying. Sure it’s a pop technique, but it’s jarring here. They’ve chucked in plenty of neat stuff, however. ‘L’Heure des Sorcieres’ employs Midnight Juggernauts-esque synth, ‘Femme Maison/One Man House’ some messy fuzz (and transfixion), and ‘Groundswell’ an old worldly harpsichord intro, with each fronted by that unique vocal which pulled me in in the first place. I feel that in time I’ll forgive my initial criticism of this album, or at least just takes the songs in isolation. Many of them a pretty rad.

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Ed Sheeran – ÷

It’s the emo rap sob pop album nobody wanted! False, actually. Hordes of emo rap lovers wanted it. Or, pop lovers. Sobbing pop lovers? Or the Irish… Do the Irish like the English these days? I think the emo rap lovers wanted something different. Confused? I am too… Because that is what ÷ does to you. Now, the third album in Ed Sheeran’s mathematical catalogue does contain proof that he can write a fun, memorable pop song. The unfortunate thing though, is that it also contains a whole lot of other stuff. You’ve probably heard ‘Castle on the Hill’ – a perfectly rounded, rousing pop tune that reminds us that English teens love to vom (so nostalgic) – and ‘Shape of You’ (the banana shaker one). You could easily stop there, basking in the craft of two well-rounded radio favourites. But, if you want to hear Ed delve into all sorts, listen to ÷. There’s an expected list of (mostly ordinary) ballads on ÷, but there’s also an odd amount of rapping (‘Eraser’), a flawed go at sexy soul (‘Dive’), a kind of nod to Graceland (‘Bibia Be Ye Ye’), an attempted street party anthem (‘Barcelona’), and a stab at an Irish pub ditty (‘Nancy Mulligan’). While this all rushes past in a confusing blaze, nowhere is the randomness of ÷ reflected more than on ‘Galway Girl’, a rap-versed Irish fiddle love song. Now do you see why I’m confused? He’s used so much here, it’s hard to know what else is there to look forward to. Perhaps deathcore, reggae and EDM will be thrown into the mix on his future albums and π. You know, because Ed.

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Alice Jemima – Alice Jemima

These tunes may envelop you or just pass you by depending on how much attention you want to give them. On one hand, the wistful pop of Alice Jemima is a fair stress remedy and escape from the world. Electronic beats, synth and cool guitar (think the xx) combine with whispery vocals (think Lisa Mitchell) to create a dream state you can close your eyes and bathe in. It’s chilled out, summer arvo music. There comes a point where you forget to notice the songs differentiating, but try not to miss the gentle oh-so-odd reworking of ‘No Diggity’. On the other hand, if your eyes are wide open and you’re caught up in whatever else is going on nearby, the “quiet” of these songs will struggle to seep in. This is calm stuff – you have to meet it accordingly.

Holy Holy – Paint

Holy Holy’s Paint is a triumphant Australian rock album, stacked with beauty and feeling. Its paradox is that the songs sound both classic and brand new, each awash with rollicking guitar and smooth vocals that draw you further in with each track. While the band have sited American folk and country bands as influences in the past, there is a distinct Australiana about Paint that is instantly recognisable. Hints of Icehouse and The Church can be found, as can likenesses to many contemporaries who Holy Holy may just well surpass with this release – in several instances I heard a balance somewhere between a Husky-like folk and the brooding of City Calm Down. ‘Darwinism’ is an all-round brilliant track and the indie rock mastery of ‘Elevator’ contains the defining riff off the album, while added touches of progressive psychedelia (‘Shadow’, ‘Send My Regards’) and pop sensibility (‘True Lovers’) only add to Holy Holy’s conquest.

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Falls Festival @ Mt Duneed Estate (Victoria), 28-31 December 2015

Falls Festival managed to pull off what was previously thought impossible. With fires still threatening the Otways, there was no chance the Erskine Falls sight in Lorne would proceed. But Falls have friends and favours, it appears.

My Duneed Estate, just outside of Geelong, was the replacement sight. It’s used more commonly for A Day on the Green but for this week, it would be overrun by the young and munted. At first I thought the replacement site would be a disaster, but I soon ate my words.

The sight was actually larger than Lorne, with a hill that seemed to climb on forever (not as steep as Lorne, but noticeably longer back). As for most other factors, the organisers had, in some feat of super natural ability, replicated the festival in 2 days! The stage setups, bars, food vendors, shelters – the whole deal – had not been compromised by the last minute shift. It was a bloody stellar effort.

Of course, then there was the relentless heat, ants of wrath, expensive drinks and droves of dickheads…

Musically, the lineup went ahead unchanged – from trippin to rockin, classics new and old, ska, stoner, dance, indie – Falls, as per usual, had it all. And through the music, the aforementioned negatives seemed to be forgiven.

Boogie Nights. Well, that happened.

Day 2 featured early local fare, including The Bennies, whose stoner party rock had revellers dancing in the afternoon sun, before the smooth soul of the ultra-dapper Leon Bridges set a completely new tone. Falls were on the mark booking Bridges at this stage and I can now highly recommend him.

Halsey and Paul Kelly held the late afternoon slots. The former was a surprise, holding a formidable stage presence and evoking the most genuinely huge crowd reaction I’ve heard at Falls following her song ‘Ghost’. Then Paul Kelly’s Merri Soul Sessions brought the class, with Clairy Brown and Vika and Linda Bull killing it on lead vocals throughout the set.

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It really started to heat up on Day 3, with the site’s lack of shade taking its toll on the afternoon crowds (where did they all go to hide?). Alpine had a tough slot early arvo, but produced an energy that was somewhat hard to believe. Likewise, the energy held on the main stage with Courtney Barnett, who shook off any ideas of subtle, with guitar thrashing and hair flailing.

Gary Clark Jr was the epitome of cool, pulling in more and more listeners as he went on and displaying a legendary talent on the guitar. Afterwards, Ngaiire was keeping things cool up in the tent, with a stripped back soul session that demonstrated her own impressive vocal talents.

Sandwiched between Rufus (who are proof that if you make something shiny enough you’ll excite the majority) and Disclosure, Bloc Party’s indie rock needed to pull out all stops to keep the party vibe. For the most part they succeeded, with favourites like ‘Ratchet’ and ‘Helicopter’ right on target.

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New year’s eve started off beautifully with a swag of local acts. Little May kept things cool in the top tent, demonstrating a distinctly Australian folk rock, before Meg Mac and Holy Holy impressed on the main stage, with the heat meaning the latter struggled to pull a sizeable crowd despite deserving one.

The rock theme continued throughout the afternoon, first with Londoners The Maccabees releasing a solid performance despite the heat they of all people would be struggling through. Harts overlapped in the top tent, absolutely nailing it. That guy is going to be a superstar. Finally, Birds of Tokyo brought the anthems to the main stage and arms to the air, probably as much in reaction to the drop in temperature as to their tunes.

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Elliphant accompanied the sunset of Falls’ last day, delivering a strange Sweden meets Jamaica kind of rap. Her banter may have been at times comical, but she knew how to rev people up and had a great time.

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Finally, midnight was counted down by Foals, who delivered a varied set with quieter lulls and elated highs. Yannis Philippakis owned the set as he literally stood on top of the crowd, while the band produced a stellar guitar jam to lead into 2016.

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