November 15, 2010

The Drones – Havilah
blues-rock, garage-punk

The Drones - HavilahA work of muscular punk-blues, The Drones’ sprawling fourth full-length album is emotionally charged and very fiercely delivered, topping the excellent Wait Long By the River and The Bodies of Your Enemies Will Float By as the Australian quartet’s finest work. Backed by bluesy percussion and guitar that alternates between punchy and sparse, lead-Drone Gareth Liddiard couples formidable songwriting talent with a gravel-lined, croak-&-roar delivery that makes every emotion he expresses sound like it’s been amplified multiple times over, and it’s undeniable that he reaches heights of excellence on this album rarely heard on previous efforts. The group show great discipline on Havilah, knowing exactly when to reign in their fury and when to push it into overdrive, making for an intense and dynamic performance that’s packed with memorable moments. Highlight tracks are in abundant supply, be it the stompy and humourous lead single “The Minotaur”, the melancholy, late-night lament of “Cold and Sober”, the measured storytelling of “The Distant Housewife”, the anthemic and ruthlessly indignant “Oh My”, the uplifting finale “Your Acting’s Like the End of the World” or the album’s thrilling mini-epics “Lay it Down”, “I Am the Supercargo” and “Luck in Odd Numbers” (in a pinch I’d pick that last one as the album’s best). Normally I wouldn’t go so far as to mention quite so many tracks individually, but Havilah is one of those freak instances of an album that plays out like one continuous peak, blessed with an almost embarrassing surplus of perfect songs, each one individually noteworthy in its own right. It’s the best Australian album of the decade, to be sure, and deserves to be remembered as one of the country’s all-time greatest works.




November 7, 2010

Ned Collette – Jokes and Trials
singer/songwriter, folk

Every music geek has their own little discoveries. When I first got into Ned Collette, he was almost completely unknown. I downloaded one of his songs (“The Laughter Across the Street”, incidentally) after it was recommended on a music site, liked it, investigated him online, discovered he was due to play a live show in my area in the coming days, attended the Ned Collette - Jokes and Trialsgig, loved every minute of it, bought the album and finally became a die-hard fan, preaching his brilliance to anyone who’ll listen. There’s something about that experience, particularly when combined with the intimate feel of the album, that makes Jokes and Trials feel really special to me in a way that transcends musical quality and moves into the realm of something more personal. “Song For Louis” (and its separate-track coda “The Happy Kidnapper”), which opens the album, remains my absolute favourite of his songs, with “The Laughter Across the Street” not far behind, while “A Plea for You Through Me”, “Heaven’s the Key”, “Blame” and lead single “Boulder” are all essential cuts as well. Collette has gained a bit more exposure through two more stellar releases (one of which is Future Suture, which we’ve already seen on this list and I’d concede is probably more technically accomplished), but he’s still woefully unknown in most circles, which is a tremendous shame given that he’s writing some of the smartest and most effortlessly appealing music in the world right now.


November 2, 2010

Eddy Current Suppression Ring – Primary Colours
garage-rock, garage-punk, post-punk

Australia’s garage-rock/punk scene of the 1970s, which delivered a slew of brilliant albums, gets a far-better-than-you’d-ever-expect revival in the form of Eddy Current Suppression Ring’s sophomore effort Primary Colours. The Melbourne foursome deliver a blast of straight-from-the-gut, minimum-frills rock that channels Aussie-Eddy Current Suppression Ring - Primary Coloursgarage kings The Saints with surprising ease, making for an old-school record that feels like a long-lost hit of a bygone era. While the group keep it predominantly simple and familiar, they do throw in some individualistic touches to establish a distinct identity (even if these touches are also mostly pilfered from other groups) – there’s some long, loose guitar lines, reminiscent of the hypnotic loops of Television and Can, that give the album a bit of a post-punk flavour at times, particularly on “That’s Inside of Me” and “Colour Television”, while “We’ll Be Turned On” employs ultra-cheap keyboard lines and goofball lyrics to deliver the album’s least serious and most amusing cut. Lead singer Brendan Suppression is classic frontman material, a big personality who oozes rock ‘n’ roll charisma every time he opens his mouth (which is useful since, in a technical sense, he can’t really sing out of it). He stumbles his way through Primary Colours with the on-the-edge spontaneity of Iggy Pop, to the point that you can almost hear him dancing spasmodically as he belts out his punchy vocals. The album opens stunningly, as the short, sharp and straightforward double-hit of the strutting “Memory Lane” and the bombastic “Sunday’s Coming” ensure that you’re instantly transfixed, while lead single “Which Way to Go”, deceptively over-simplistic at first, over time gets stuck deep into your head and simply won’t let go, making it one of the decade’s most durably exciting rock songs. Essentially, this album is a perfect example of what rock music should be when you boil it down to its essential elements – tightly played, consistently exciting and economical in a way that leaves you satisfied but hungry for more.



October 8, 2010

Ned Collette Future Suture
folk, singer-songwriter

Ned Collette - Future SutureFuture Suture feels like a logical progression from Collette’s debut, Jokes and Trials. Retaining that first album’s sense of intimacy and warmth, Collette expands his sonic palate, fleshing out his guitar-based sound with extra instrumentation – not merely touches of strings, woodwind, brass, etc, though these are present, but also with full-band arrangements that give these songs a really broad, vivid sound, pushing the album in a more outward-reaching direction that makes for an interesting variation from the more insular approach of his debut. The recording is also significantly more crisp and professional, and this complements the fuller sound well. As with Jokes and Trials, Collette’s Cohenesque lyricism is a major selling point, and lines like the slightly sinister “Until you show your cards we’ll sing your praises” (“Show Your Hand”) and the weary resignation in “I’ll swap with you right now a good plan for a fling” (“Sell Your Life”, also my favourite track) are really sharply affecting. With just nine tracks – perfectly sequenced and without the slightest dip in quality – Future Suture is very pleasingly economical, and with its poetic lyrics and the fine musical details littered generously throughout, it’s one of the most highly replayable albums of the decade. I’ve had a lot of time for Collette’s work over the last five years, and Future Suture is further evidence that he stands out as one of Australia’s finest musicians, and a leading light in the singer-songwriter genre.