Album Review: Youth Lagoon-Wondrous Bughouse

Doesn’t the album title ‘Wondrous Bughouse’ sound totally fucked up? Like that scene from that movie The Wicker Man with Nicholas Cage were he freaks out about bees (on an unrelated note, he also dresses in a bear and punches a woman in the face). Doesn’t ‘Wondrous Bughouse’ sound like the sort of thing a serial killer unveils to his victims right before he disembowels them with moth balls or something? It’s certainly a departure in tone from Youth Lagoon aka Trevor Powers debut offer ‘The Year of Hibernation’.

But what is an album name anyway? Atoms For Peace’s album is called ‘AMOK’, and The Drones most recent album is called ‘I See Seaweed’, and both are brilliantly deceptive artworks. Even The Cure released the incredibly misleading ‘Pornography’ which featured approximately 0 boobs. Just goes to show you can’t judge an album by it’s title. However, whereas ‘The Year of Hibernation’ showed Youth Lagoon kind of seethe and waft in temperamental tones of justified hypnotism and tranquility, ‘Wondorous Bughouse’ progresses to a more upbeat (if you can call it that) and experimental tone.

There’s plenty of odd, shifting moments in the album. Opening track ‘Through Mind and Back’ is more James Blake being silently sacrificed than Youth Lagoon-ish, and ‘The Bath’ is literally a washed out, spray painted wallowing of sound, noisy pedalled effects haphazardly splashed everywhere. ‘Daisyphobia‘ is anything but phobic, a freewheeling gallon of flowers being poured into an unsuspecting noise vacuum, shunted through piano, effected, slanted chiming and whirring, warped in every sense of the word. But then there are songs made of exuberance and nothing else. ‘Third Dystopia’, ‘Raspberry Cane’, and ‘Attic Doctor‘ all indulge in Trevor Power’s voice and his ability to compress and extend it like the world’s most fucked up slinky, shoving it through and past enough carnivale atmosphere that the World Fair takes a step back and says ‘Woah man, that shit’s fucked up.’ ‘Dropla‘ creates the most ‘Year of Hibernation’-esque sounds, and it is also the best track on the album by far. Not because it sounds like the Youth Lagoon of old, but because it’s the most focused, and calmly executed. It’s Youth Lagoon in it’s element.

Overall, Youth Lagoon have released a mixed bag sort of album. It tries very hard, and at points succeeds to a degree, but it never fully understands itself, or even knows what it wants to present. It touches on psychedelic, but unlike it predecessor, ‘Wondrous Bughouse’ fails to give off that calming effect of brilliance. It’s okay, but a step-down in performance and atmospheric composure, the balanced fortitude of calming waves of sliced sound that the predecessor promised. In this case, it’s more a cataclysm of oozing slugs, gnarled spiders and pudgy worms making up the orchestra of weird sounds in the wondrous house of bugs.

Video: Palms-Love

I ‘Love’ Palms. HAHAHAAHAH FUCK, COMEDY FUCKING GOLD! Anyway, Palms are a fairly awesome band made up of ex-Red Riders members. All that indie, carefully plotted bullshit gets thrown to the side like a durry out of a ute on Princes Highway, and Palms indulge in the partying and wild side of Sydney life. Listening to a Palms song such as ‘Love’ or previous single ‘The Summer Is Done With Us’ is similar to that of bashing your head witha frying pan full of exotic treats until you pass out with a grin on your face. It’s good shit, and the video is a testament to ‘Hanna Barbera cartoons (Flintstones, Jetsons etc.) and features heaps of A-List Celebrities’. It’s a delirious, multi-faceted, multi-coloured journey into the mind of a 2 year old on acid. What a wonderful 2 and half minute experience!

Video: Thee Oh Sees-Minotaur

One of my favourite bands Thee Oh Sees have released their first visual taster of their 2013 upcoming release ‘Floating Coffin’, and it’s a bit of a departure from their usual affair. Whilst previous material centres on the unruly and the futility of trying to master an art that thrives on the amateur, ‘Minotaur’ actually as a pretty heartfelt presence. There’s strings for fucks sake! It’s a bouncy little swaying ballad and it’s pretty damn great, but the video makes it, reflecting the cheap-but-inventive attitude of the band. Good sign of the album to come.

Album Review: Alt-J-An Awesome Wave

Although this review is late to the table, and most will already know about the chill-fi of Alt-J, I’ve seen them live, you probably haven’t so hardy-har-har. This is a band so hipster, with skinny jeans so ball-excrutiangly tight and fashion so thrifty it’s a jumbled up collection from a homeless designer, Alt-J is actually the command for creating a ∆ on a Mac keyboard. It’s pretty nifty trick. Alt-J make pretty nifty music. That’s pretty nifty.

Anyway, it wouldn’t be the first time someone would dismiss Alt-J as a passing fad band that are so full of themselves, and hipster-than-thou that they named themselves after a fucking keyboard stroke. What happened to the good old band names? they cry. Well, sorry man, it seems that the masses have moved from heavy solos to falsetto cries and dainty chorus lines that skip lightly across a painted piano background. How unfortunate. Nah fuck that, Alt-J go all right, at least they won the Mercury Prize over a band like Beady Eye, who are the shattered and untalented remnants of Oasis minus the brilliant Noel Gallagher.

Call Alt-J a bunch of pretentious fashionistas with their pink hair and leggings, but it’s undeniable they have talent. As I mentioned before, their debut ‘An Awesome Wave’ won the enormous honour of the Mercury Prize, the most esteemed prize in British music. They won it against contemporaries such as Django Django, Field Music and Michael Kiwanika. They don’t just hand that shit out, it’s not a fucking Grammy. So, obviously Alt-J are doing something right.

The ‘something right’ in question would be the beautiful piece of art they constructed like a lightly flowing structure that tumbles in the wind delicately, and released mid-last year. ‘An Awesome Wave’ is literally chock full of amazing poetic pieces that bounce of each other like a war of clouds, fluffy yet strong pieces that drift about like the world’s softest dodgem car race. It is quite hard to find any fault in the album. Sure there are parts where the album can drift into a kind of redundant void (The Interludes, MS), but it always manages to pull back and offer a sprightly return to it’s pixie-dust instincts. The good moments far outweigh the bad, and even the points of fault highly strain the definition of ‘faulty’, more closely resembling slightly duller moments of majesty.

Obvious points of ecstasy would be ‘Fitzpleasure‘ with it’s gruelling sludge combated against a delicate battle of wit and love, set to the almost Eastern vocals and plucking. There’s ‘Matilda‘ a beautiful swansong of lustful love, that both wants and hates it’s subject, torturing the protagonist with desire, and stretching it’s musical digits into a sprawling concoction over the song, a stretched palette of sound. One could not review ‘An Awesome Wave’, without including the one-two punch of ‘Tesselate’ and the unforgettable ecstasy of ‘Breezeblocks’. ‘Tesselate‘ shows a vague, interpreted side of Alt-J, leaning on humming, shedding piano and a staccato’d electronic hi-hat. This is followed by the forceful ‘Breezeblocks‘, a chiming, swirling whirlpool of confusion and seduction, splashing itself and toying with the listener in a gnashing, viciously wonderful and upturned style. Just listen to it, you’ll know what I mean.

There is so much more I could say about this album, but I’m tired as fuck and I need my beauty sleep, I’m doing Calvin Klein modelling at 3 in the morning in Dubai tomorrow. Should be fun and shit. I’m hanging out with Anthony Kiedis and Kim Jong Il’s son. Should be sexy. Anyway, Alt-J simply outdo themselves on a surprising debut that warms the soul like a hot-chocolate on a winter, yet tatters like an ice pick and twirls like a snowflake. It’s a fickle, slippery piece of majesty.

Alt-J are playing the Hordern Pavilion on Wed 31 July, and will probably play Splendour in the Grass. I highly recommend their live show which is a patterned, feel good venture amongst like-minded lovers of chilled hipsterisms.

What the Fuck is Psychedelic Music?-A Short Essay

Most people, by which I mean 90% of the population, can’t even spell psychedelic, let alone describe it. ‘It’s just that shit that drugged out stoners listen to, right before they commit mass murder’. Nope. ‘It’s that shit that just goes on an on and on, it sounds like shit’. Nah mate. ‘Fucking Jimi Hendrix, man!’ Sort of right. Not really. Psychedelic music betrays any sort of definitive hold down label, and for that, it can be objectively viewed as one of the most unresisting and flowing musical styles of any. 

This isn’t to necessarily say that it’s the best genre. Not at all. I personally prefer punk music myself. However, I feel that psychedelic music is a truly under-represented genre, and undervalued for it’s sheer technical prowess, and ability to conjure all sorts of emotion and incite action through the medium of music. It is not just the music of dimly lit parent’s basements, with pot smoke wafting between the beams of guitar and rays of crashing effects. There is more to the music than trippy cover art and long hair. Psychedelic can represent a whole stage of rebellion, and engage a display of colour and light unbeknownst to any other art form. 

A few of the better known psychedelic bands: Jimi Hendrix, The Flaming Lips, Tame Impala, The Black Angels, Yeasayer, Boris, Black Moth Super Rainbow. In fact, it was the latter that inspired me to write about the importance and skill of psychedelic music. But back to basics. Pink Floyd. Pink Fucking Floyd. If you don’t know Pink Floyd, you don’t know music. These guys basically invented the concept album, the ability to use a whole fucking orchestra and still make a song rock, and to blend metaphorical themes with rock music. They expanded the shit out of their songs, creating gaps and space in parts where other bands would have rushed to fill in, and what was created was a legacy. Although by no means the best of the psych bands, Pink Floyd created something. I guarantee your parents or grandparents still go on about it today, but not about the mind-blowing shit in ‘Moth Wings’ by Pond, or the arrangements of Spiritualized’s ‘Come Together’.

This brings me back to my point. Everyone knows ‘Money‘ or ‘Another Brick in the Wall‘ and respects these songs for the great political pieces of art they are, because Pink Floyd, man, what are you, a musical simpleton? But what about the other great masterpieces of the world of psychedelic that never breached into the mainstream? This isn’t an argument of hipsters vs. mainstream, rather why the audience is ignoring such a revered art form. It’s a popular genre, it’s not like this is a debate over Somalian industrial trap-folk, or Indonesian Orchestral-thrash rap. People know about psychedelic, but it remains a dormant beast. Perhaps it poses such a frightening exploitation and disintegration of the fragile human psyche that it is only shuffled awake by the curious bystander. Does it frighten the average listener with it’s 9 minute long song time filled with crunching melodies, shifting signatures and fluid, overlapping style? Is it such a possessive force with a stigma of being labelled as ‘The shit’ by potheads, that most law-abiding citizens choose to simply stick with a pop ballad that repeats the phrase ‘ASS! ASS! ASS!’ over and over again?

Truth is, psychedelic music is fucking penetrating every aspect of popular aspect of ‘good’ music (aka nothing that makes society take a step backwards in our evolution of civilisation). Take a few incredibly famous artists like Nine Inch Nails, The Horrors, MGMT, Alt-J, Modest Mouse, The Dandy Warhols, and Radiohead. Even the straightforward-as-an-erection The Strokes have dabbled in elements of psychedelic music. None of the aforementioned bands clearly label themselves as psychedelic, however all have utilised, or thrown a nod at the genre that has influenced the sound of a particular song or album. As of now, I can only recall one band that has really shot to the top of the charts, and branded themselves as psychedelic, which would be Django Django, and fuck are they great.

So, what is psychedelic music? That’s what the title of this extremely shitty essay promised, however, psychedelic is less about doing 30 hits of acid and playing guitar, and more about incorporating the elements of a freeing and emotive music into a beautiful arrangement of music, equal parts Beethoven’s 5th Symphony and Jimi Hendrix’s ‘All Along the Watchtower’. Psyschedelic has no definitive label nor answer, and thus can execute a perfect range of harmony and awesome power, or pure, unadulterated expression of the artists’ desire. Case in point: Black Moth Super Rainbow: Born on a Day The Sun Didn’t Rise. Happy music about depressing shit, tied together with symphonied synths, warped effects, and a falsetto. Game, set, match, psychedelic music. Beats the shit out of Nicki Minaj any day. 

Album Review: Camperdown & Out-Couldn’t Be Better

It’s official. The 90’s slacker indie rock scene of America has been caught tugging on the panties of 70’s Australian pub scrawl tunes. The Mayans were right, but instead of hurtling asteroids, dinosaurs and Tony Abbot as Prime Minister, we got hit with some serious nostalgia, in a revamped and youthanised (not a spelling error) form. The fossils of the Go-Betweens were injected Jurassic-Style with the liquids of science of Pavement and the serum known as Stephen Malkmus, and the island of terror of which this monster beheads unknowing Sam Neal impersonators is Sydney. 

The band is question are locals Camperdown & Out. Made up of members from equally great, yet slightly different bands like Raw Prawn, Dead Farmers, Marf Loth, and the world conquering Royal Headache, some might call the band a supergroup. HAHAHA you insolent fool, you belligerent swine! I laugh in the face of your petty labelling! Nah, these are just some blokes who got together, started to jam, made some sick as fuck tunes, got signed to wunderkids Popfrenzy, and put out one of the best albums with no apparent effort throughout the entire thing since Ty Segall’s self-titled album. 

Seriously, you could not find a more chilled, lo-fi sound out there if you tried. The album wanes like an old man’s violin, purring and croaking it’s way through a set of name checked Sydney destinations, smooth, lackadaisical riffs and hoarse, kooky lyrics. The music sighs in and out with all the strain of a lazy Sunday arvo, moving in a relaxed pace of a wave sliding on and off the beach. The album takes hints and nods at various other figures and bands, the aforementioned Go-Betweens and Pavement, however there are moments where shades of the obscure come through. ‘A Good Sound’ could be Nodzzz ‘I Don’t Wanna (Smoke Marijuana)’ slowed down a million times, and ‘Down and Out’ could quite easily be the next Camper Van Beethoven single. However, notice the prefix of ‘could’. Whilst the songs ‘could’ represent a hail of exaltation to a band of olde, instead the songs can stand on their own two feet quite handsomely. Try to get Paul Kelly or Split Enz to bang out something like ‘Hey Woman’ with it’s sticky bass, or ‘South Coast’ with it’s ultra-cynical and self-deprecating tone. It’s just too fucking chilled and youthful, only capable from people who’ve grown up on a diet of Newtown Bakery goods, Manly prejudice and polluted Sydney air in the late 20th Century, bashed over the brain with teenage rejection and B-Movies starring Jason Statham. What evolves is a lo-fi lament to the bands that taught the guys from Camperdown & Out, inspired them to get into music and put out a couple of tracks that sound all-fucking-right.

Sydney needs more bands like this. Or at least another band that spouts Sydney local spots like Tim Rogers on crack. 

Stream the debut album from the gawds here on Popfrenzy’s Bandcamp. The sum of parts are also all excellent: Royal Headache, Marf Loth (most revoltingly beautiful band name since Megadeath) Dead Farmers, and Raw Prawn

Video: Songs-Boy/Girl

Another one from Songs’ newest longplayer. Unlike ‘Alone When I’m With You’, ‘Boy/Girl’ is a little more quaint, easier on the feedback, and has a bit of a nicer, cuter ring to the overall structure of the track. It’s like if San Cisco combined their pop sensibilities and Aussie-ness, with ‘Clouds Taste Metallic’ era-Flaming Lips. It’s a very whole-hearted flowing thing, with a little bit of lighthearted vocals bantering against even lighter strumming guitar and tambourine. Imagine chucking a big ass amp in a woodland, and having all sorts of furry little creatures come out and jam. That’s the kind of shit that’s going on in this song. Add the super chill, super trippy, naturally inhibited video, you’ve got a winner.

Video: Camperdown & Out-Manly

I reckon Camperdown & Out are the new You Am I, just name checking landmarks of Sydney in their songs. First their was the brilliant ‘St Peters’ (Hmmm, wonder what goes on over there?) and now they shift focus to the North side, Sydney’s famous Manly Beach. However, the song is a lot more personal and introspective, saying how they don’t really belong in the perfect, glamourous setting of the North Shore as compared to everyman town in the inner-west. It’s not super fucking deep or anything, and it’s so slacker you can practically smell the bong fumes seeping from the chords, but it’s slightly off-key, acoustic sound is perfectly suited for the chiller vibes of Camperdown & Out. They’re playing a free gig at Red Eye Records in the city this Sunday, so if ya dig it, you should see them play.

Album Review: Sandcastle-Sandcastle EP

I’ve grown up in Sydney my whole life, which means my pasty torso has graced that awful thing they call the beach. And whilst at the beach, I like to pretend to have fun while drowning and make sandcastles. And if I know anything about sandcastles, it’s that they have no fucking structure or solidarity whatsover. And I’ve built a fuckload of sandcastles. 

Anyway, I got put onto this band called Sandcastle. Unlike the shit-canos of my youth, the sound is substantial, and won’t self-destruct the second you lay a bit too much weight on the outer barricade. In fact, some of Sandcastle’s best moments come when they lay it on thick and heavy. Fuck yeah, let’s get fat with Sandcastle. Thick n chunky, like Fat Bastard from Austin Powers. Although it’s the only material Sandcastle have available, and the EP is only three tracks long, it stretches out for a near 20 minutes, of extended pysch-garage jams. And when I say jams, I mean jams, with heavily endorsed solo’s and played off riffing featuring extensively throughout all the tracks.

Hmmm, what to compare Sandcastle to? Well, if you took a track from early Scientists (Blood Red River era) and chucked a riff-centric melody, then made Male Bonding skin it alive, whilst Mark Arm from Mudhoney filmed the thing on his phone laughing his arse off, you might, maybe, could possibly get something similar. Just re-reading that sentence, I kind of get the feeling that some sort of cruel satanic ritual is taking place, but it’s a really lovely metaphor once you think about it. What they have going is really slow and nice, but at the same time, Sandcastle can keep it lighthearted, and not get weighted down. This is evident in all three tracks, with some trippy distortion and Kim Salmon-esque vocals placed sporadically between some very Ron Burgundy grooves. MMMM always goes down smooth. 

Fantastic piece of work coming off the Newcastle label Nutritional Content. Although it came out last year, it still holds up as a pretty piece of GoGurt in the fridge of life (copyright RyanSaar2012). Picking a favourite track on this album (granted there’s only three, but they’re all amazeballs) is fucking impossible, like Wayne Coyne deciding he wants to be sane, or even something resembling sanity. It’s just not feasible. Grab it for free here, or if you super dig it, and want to help the band in their endeavours of musical stardom and playing stadium shows supporting Guns N Roses 50th Anniversary tour, grab it here on vinyl. 

All Tomorrow’s Parties October Festival Playlist-Release the Bats

So, the almighty All Tomorrow’s Parties has returned to Australia, twice in one fucking year. BOOM PRIVILEGE BIATCH, HOW DAT SHIT FEEL?! Earlier this year, we got served up with a dose of The Drones, My Bloody Valentine and Godspeed! You Black Emperor, and this October’s Halloween themed event looks to be shaping up absolutely sweet. Hopefully this shit doesn’t clash with the HSC, because it’s an absolutely mental showcase of the best experimental and forward thinking music on the planet + nostalgia acts. If you’re lucky, you might recognise an act or two (read previous statement with heavy doses of patronism)

1. The Breeders-Cannonball

2. The Jesus Lizard-Rodeo in Juliet

3. Fuck Buttons-Colours Move

4. Total Control- One More Tonight

5. The Scientists-Frantic Romantic

6. The UV Race-Lego Man

7. The Spinning Rooms-Don’t Stop Me

8. White Walls-White Walls I

9. Forest Swords-Rattling Cage

10. The Scientists- Swampland