Friday, 30 December 2011

Bawley (Hearts) 2011: Top 5 Concerts of the Year: Karen

5. Paul Kelly A-Z, The Playhouse, Canberra 28/01/2011
Kicking the year off with a tear-jerker before departing the country for 12 months. I can't remember where in the alphabet we landed at this show but The Playhouse was the perfect venue for an emotion filled show. Tears all around.

4. TV On The Radio, Metropolis, Montreal 17/04/2011
Beautiful show from one of Bawley's favourite bands.

3. CSS, Stereo, Glasgow 31/08/2011
I'm in love with Lovefoxxx. I met Lovefoxxx. She gave me a poster. I love Lovefoxxx.

2. The Cave Singers, King Tut's Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow 18/08/2011
So much energy, sweat and fun. These guys copped the old Glesga crowd in full swing and were ready to fight back with ferocity. Brilliant!

1. The Jezabels, King Tut's Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow 6/09/2011
My second Jezabels show for 2011 and they didn't disappoint. Possibly the friendliest band around, they had the famously hard-to-please King Tut's crowd lapping up their hits as well as throwing new tracks off Prisoner in too. Dark Storm is still my favourite.

Other highlights from the year include: C.W Stoneking in Edinburgh, Cut Copy in New York and Architecture in Helsinki in Paris.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Bawley (Hearts) 2011: Top 5 Concerts of the Year: Hummer

5. Jebediah, ANU Bar, Canberra 26/05/2011

Essentially a greatest hits show Jebediah put on a show that was far more fun that I care to admit.

4.Adalita and Amaya Laucirica, Transit Bar, Canberra, 14/04/2011

Adalita's headline performance was good but the night belonged to the brilliant Amaya Laucirica. Playing songs from her Early Summer album Amaya Laucirica silenced the crowd with fuzzy guitars and uplifting lyrics.

3. Deftones, UNSW Roundhouse, Sydney, 28/01/2011

With a powerful new record under their (still low ridding) belts Deftones put on a the kind of performace you expect from bands half their age. Equal parts brutal and beautiful Deftones proved once again that they are more than your average hard rock band. (full review)

2. The Cure: Reflections, Sydney Opera House, Sydney, 01/06/2011

Specially reformed line ups of The Cure playing their first three albums at the Sydney Opera House. This show was always going to be great. I could not have known it was also going to be a lot of fun. As expected the sound was perfect and the band faultless what was a surprise was how fresh and fun the near 30 year old music seemed. The Cure: Reflections was a massive event and massive fun. (full review)

1. Portishead, Harvest Festival, Parramatta, 13/11/2011

The loudest, quietest, most delicate and most physically assaulting show I attended all year was also the best. (full review)

Bawley (Hearts) 2011: Top 5 Albums of the Year: Hummer

5. SBTRK - SBTRK / Gil Scott Heron and Jamie xx - We're New Here / Radiohead - The King of Limbs

Dubstep/post-dubstep/bass music/the wobble sound/whatever was everywhere in 2011. While the clubs and radio playlists focused on the abrasive bro-step sounds of Skrillex, Nero and Skream there was another set of dubstep artists that were doing something more interesting thing at the other end of the post dubstep spectrum.

With more guest singers than a sewing machine convention the success of SBTRKT's debut record is in its cohesiveness. From the soulful Sampha to the poptastic Little Dragon SBTRKT manages to find the best in his collaborators. The record is full of downbeat electronic pop and I love it.

On We're New Here Jamie xx chops combines, re-samples and remixes Gil Scott Heron's 2010 album I'm New Here. Coming just before Heron's death the album has the feel of a tribute, but a fearless tribute. Opening track I'm New Here is a highlight as is the gorgeous My Cloud and the hands in the air closer I'll Take Care of U.

Using chopped up drum loops (Bloom) and reverb washed vocals (Feral) Radiohead showed that the tools of dubstep could be applied to interesting progressive rock music. The Oxford group further embrassed the genre inviting Jamie xx and SBTRKT (among others) to re-work tracks on the TKOL RMX 1234567 collection.

4. The Horrors - Skying

The Horrors have continued progression from goth punks to dark romantic pop masters. Skying has the band trying their hand at the stadium music of the 80's. The Cure, Simple Minds, My Bloody Valentine all the references are checked but this is more than just a re-cast of what has gone before. Skying is a large sweeping beautiful re-imagination.

3. PJ Harvey - Let England Shake

The album as modern war document. Inspired by the front line artists of wars past PJ Harvey drags her paint brush across the canvas of war touching on aggression, righteousness, loss and the deep dark red of blood.

The albums graphic (I've seen soldiers fall like lumps of meat, blown and shot out beyond belief - The Words That Maketh Murder) and gloomy (There are no fields no trees, no blades of grass, just unhurried ghosts are there - Hanging In the Wire) lyrics are at odds with the inspiring at times pompous music.
Let England Shake is supposedly not a protest album but an observation of wars past and commentary of conflicts present. It is also superb.

2. Bon Iver - Bon Iver

Free from his broken heart/log cabin myth Justin Vernon and band have produced an expansive technology assisted (yes, auto-tune) album of love songs. Drawing on place names real and fictional for song titles Bon Iver takes you on a journey one love song (real and fictional) at a time.

1. TV On The Radio - Nine Types of Light

Released just days before the death of bassist Gerard Smith Nine Types of Light is a strange TV On The Radio record. Minus the walls of static and subversive lyrics the Brooklyn band seem to be (almost) happy.

The new positive agenda is set on opener Second Song made personal on You and then executed with soul on standout track Will Do. The sparse ballad Killer Crane completes the records subdued first half. Before New Cannonball Blues and Repetition increase the pace towards the stadium sized riffs of closer Caffeinated Consciousness.

It took me a while to get into this positive version of TV On The Radio but the sheer number of repeat plays has revealed Nine Types Of Light; my favourite album of 2011.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Live Review: Harvest Festival, Parramatta Park, 13/11/2011

The threat of rain has passed and the sun is shining as I join the growing smug of hipsters heading across Sydney's West towards Parramatta Park and the inaugural Harvest Festival.

Entering the site through the arts area means a short tour of the spoken word, comedy and cat suit performance art stages before arriving at the Windmill stage and New Yorkers The Walkmen.

I am not all that familiar with The Walkmen and their choice to start the day with a low key ballad confused me. This pattern continued and I found their set to be nice enough but hard to get excited about.

Harvest Festival promoters had promised a more civilised festival experience - fewer crowds, shorter lines, better food and no under 18s. I sat in the field listening to PVT, pint of cider in one hand plate of Churrasco in the other, and believed they had succeeded.

TV On The Radio open with Halfway Home but the show doesn't feel like it really starts until the band play Caffeinated Consciousness. The crowd has woken up and will continue singing, dancing, cheering along for the remainder of the set. New songs Will Do and Repetition fit perfectly next to older favourites like Red Dress, Young Liars and Staring at the Sun. A TV On The Radio performance has a lot going on and if there can be any complaint it is that Tunde Adebimpe's vocals are sometimes lost in the wall of noise. There are certainly no complaints as everyone in the crowd loses their shit to set closer Wolf Like Me.

Watching Bright Eyes I am surprised how many of the songs I recognise. They are familiar but not fantastic, after spotting a nurse handing out free sunnyboys I move on.

The sun is still high in the sky when Mogwai take the stage. The daylight only seems to highlight the raw power of the band. Pity the other acts across the site as on song after pummelling song the Scottish prog rock group seem to get louder and louder.

In 2008 I missed seeing The National at Glastonbury due to a savage case of food poisoning. In January of this year I came down with whooping cough just days before their Enmore Theatre show. So after two previous attempts and three weeks of self imposed isolation (just in case) I finally get to see The National. The band starts with a stomping version of Anyone's Ghost before the brilliant Mistaken For Strangers gets everyone moving. Front man Berninger's lyrics are complex and full of double meaning but this thinking man's band still know how to have fun. The soaring Bloodbuzz Ohio very nearly carried the audience away. Fake Empire and Mr November had the whole hill dancing. The show ends with Berninger stranded in the crowd shouting the words to Terrible Love. It may have taken three attempts but The National were worth the wait.

45 minutes after their scheduled start time the Flaming Lips appear on stage. Wayne Coyne arrives inside a giant zorb and the rest of the band are birthed from the va-jay- jay of a large orange woman. But just because they are on stage it does not mean the Flaming Lips are ready to play any songs. First streamer cannons, then Wayne Coyne has to walk his zorb over the heads of the audience, then balloons then more streamers. Another ten minutes later the band start to play She Don't Use Jelly, cue more streamer cannons, more balloons and a big sing along. More streamers, balloons and The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song follows before I give up. The Flaming Lips live show has always had a great reputation but for me I would prefer less gimmicks and a few more songs.

Harvest festival had been great so far but the day was always going to be about Portishead. The earlier delays have pushed back the start of Portishead's show. Rather than dull the mood this delay builds on the already high pre-show expectations.

The Bristol group starts with Silence, the teasingly long intro has the band jamming for a good few minutes before we get the first taste of Beth Gibbons' perfect delicate vocals. Mysterons follows and it is one of the few times you hear the band use the samples and scratching of their early 90s material.

Beth Gibbons is a reluctant star - when she is not singing she hides in the darkness. The reticent singer is more than made up for by the video show. Not content with just projecting the on stage action onto the screens, Portishead use stage attached CCTV cameras, mirrors, VHS tapes and analog video processing tools to augment the live images with pulses, shadows and crazy animations.

Wondering Star is Portishead's most beautiful and fragile song. The whole audience falls silent as the band's minimal beat carefully supports the perfect delicate vocals. In contrast Machine Gun is the most assaulting live track I have heard all year. The crushing beat physically turns my stomach, the guitars buzz and synth drone induces paranoia while the laser eyed Tony Abbott projections add a layer of fear - just brilliant.

The guitar riff on tonight's version of Glory Box is superb, highlighting that this the band's defining song should be celebrated as more than dinner party background music.

The main set ends and the band leave the stage with a chaotic version of Threads, before returning for an encore of Roads and We Carry On. A brilliant end to a brilliant set on a brilliant day, more next year please.