Weekend Winddown 5

The end of the year is near! I’m hoping to get a christmas mix up sometime soon, just to fall in line with every other blogger. I don’t know of many artists that do christmas songs as well as Sufjan Stevens though so it could just be a bunch of his finest.

Looks like 2008 has a lot to offer. For those who don’t know the “other” preferred political party in Australia has made it in to governance! Labor has booted the Libs out for the count and the timing couldn’t be better. With interest rates on the rise, despite who would end up running the country, it’s about time we turn to the environment as we deal with the monetary and general costs of global warming. Drought and petrol prices have sent the price of goods and services soaring. Fruit and Veg has never seemed to cost so much!

But I digress. Whether or not you support the Libs the Labs or neither it’s nice to see some neglected areas being addressed. That much some of us can agree on… maybe… I say this in as politically correct a way as possible (assuming there’s a general consensus on what is the “correct” thing).

I offer another round of relaxed tunes for the hopefully stress-free weekend. Nothing beats lying in bed semi-awake on a Sunday morning and listening to some good music.

Alela Diane – Pieces of String [buy]

Alela Diane was a risk buy for me. I was traipsing through one of my favourite indie music shops, Landspeed Records, and noticed the reviews on the front of this woman’s album. The comparison to Joanna Newsom sold me (or rather, sold the album TO me). I can see what the reviewer meant when they mentioned this contemporary of Diane’s (whose music I adore). However Diane’s voice is perhaps more approachable. It doesn’t demand your attention as immediately as Newsom’s. At first you don’t notice the music; it seems like background music. But suddenly a harmony from out of nowhere will grab you by the heart and you find yourself hooked to simple soft songs.

Angus and Julia Stone – The Beast [buy]

This Sydney brother-sister duo, Angus and Julia Stone have taken their time growing on me. It’s not that they don’t sound lovely together. It’s just that they’re tempted into writing what I call “lacklustre songs for the sleepy surfer.” This is the same category where you’ll find my seldom-listened-to albums by Jack Johnson, Xavior Rudd etc. It’s just not my thing; I need a melody not just some pissin about on a guitar.
In the case of AJ Stone, however, they do surprise me time and time again. They’ve challenged themselves a lot more on their debut release, and the first song off it “The Beast” reveals their nuanced angle. I’d be interested to see if they will continue their musical walk in this direction, or even if they take another turn altogether!

I’m From Barcelona – Chicken Pox [buy]

Swedish band, I’m From Barcelona, have warranted comparisons to The Polyphonic Spree. This is probably because their band’s number of musicians total 29. But that’s as far as the comparison goes, as far as I can tell.
These guys write much more radio friendly structured pop songs than The Polyphonic Spree will ever feel humble enough to attempt.
IFB carry a flurry of instrumentsm, including clarinets, saxophones, flutes, trumpets, banjos, accordions, kazoos, guitars, drums, and keyboards among others. However, they don’t use them unnecessarily; rather, they use them in a complementary way. Their method is: if it works, throw it in, if not someone can wait by the sidelines and do some backing vocals for a bridge. It’s much more palatable than TPS’s mad dash to include every single instrument known to man in every single song they write.

As a result, you wouldn’t know that 29 members crowded this band when listening to their songs. Hell, the album cover would suggest there are only 4 of them! You only find out when you recognise the variation between each track just how much is involved.

Kat Frankie – Treading Water [buy]

Apparently Kat Frankie is from Sydney! I didn’t know this when I first heard her. I downloaded a song “The Tops” from the radio stationJJJ’s official website. And recently bought the album before reading an interview that revealed a bit of her background.

This woman would easily fit in a mix cd (or tape, or blog mix, if you prefer) including Cat Power, Katie Noonan, Missy Higgins, Beth Gibbons and Basia Bulat. Taking time out to go live in Berlin seems to have paid off for Frankie! Not only has Frankie got a remarkable talent for writing beautiful melodies, she also includes the right instruments to build on or break down each song at the right time, avoiding any possibility of monotony. In “Treading Water” the piano is worked in perfectly.

And of course I can’t resist the Mellotrone used in a few of the songs. What a beautiful and unnoticed instrument it is. It just draws in a gorgeous line of melancholy. “Treading Water” doesn’t have any Mellotrone in it but the songs that do are perfect for your lonely days. For those who have heard The Notwist, their song “Pick up the Phone” is a good example of a Mellotrone used well and I highly recommend you check these guys out.

Machine Translations – Love Won’t Wait [buy]

I’m still testing the waters with Machine Translations. He’s a bit hit and miss for me. When he does hit the mark though he gets the bullseye.
Comparisons to Beck are fair but he’s a bit more relaxed in his style. Good laid-back tunes, and potential for strong songs.

The National – Cherry Tree [buy]

The National continue to impress me in many different ways. It’s now at a point where if a certain song by them comes on I have no choice but to listen to it there and then, all the way through. I like a lot of artists but few are privy to grabbing me like that. I now understand why there’s such a strong underground following… and why they’ve so quickly crawled to the number one most-listened-to artist on my Lastfm profile page!
Just listen.

The Panics – Don’t Fight It [buy]

Ahhh The Panics… If only the lead singer had a sweeter voice… but isn’t that the point? There’s something in the drawl-tone style of Jae Laffer’s voice that feels sentimental and oddly colonial. I know that’s a vague way of explaining it but that’s the best I can come up with.
I don’t know why but for the most part I like The Panics…
Some songs fall flat, mind you. But this album introduces an instrumental element that delivers the songs with much more bravado; and it works perfectly!

Either way, they’ve just won the J Award so they’re doing something right.

Before I sign off though I must direct your attention to Grizzly Bear member Daniel Rossen’s cover of a song called “Too Little Too Late.” “What song,” you ask? Exactly! I’d never heard the apparently bad Jo-Jo original but it’s performed so well by Rossen. It’s a nice 60’s style track with great vocals. Click on the song and download it from Stereogum’s website.

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  1. […] erroneously, back in 2007 when I first blogged about Kat Frankie I said she was originally from Sydney. I haven’t been able to verify this, but she’s […]

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