Thank you and good night from Bandcamp Hunter.
Listen to this song while you read this, if you like.
Bandcamp Hunter began way back in the Melbourne spring of 2010. Much has changed in my life since then. People, cats, houses, jobs, study, beards…all have come and gone (and come back again in the case of beards), though many things remain the same. Music is still my great love and discovering new music still thrills me. Finding a band or singer/songwriter or synth alchemist who connects with you through their art is a beautiful thing. I feel privileged to have shared all of this music with you. To have consistently found that you seemed to dig it too has provided me with great joy.
However. Time is the thing.
These days I am in the second year of a degree studying wildlife and conservation biology. In the first year of study I found the juggling of study, work and blogging to be reasonably manageable but-as fellow students will concur-in second year things step up a bit. The load has intensified. As such I need to bring Bandcamp Hunter to a close. I don’t like saying it’s “dead”, it’s possible I’ll bring it back at some point. Anything Could Happen, you know.The phrase a friend and fellow sci fi geek recommend I use is “in stasis”. I’m not ruling out bringing BCH back from its deep space slumber in a year or five years or ten years, or a clone of me bringing it back in two hundred years, but for now it is entering that frosty compartment and being jettisoned to the outer reaches. I’ve considered scaling the site back and not posting as often but the thing is I spend a lot of time Bandcamp Hunting - too much. BCH has been an overwhelmingly positive experience for me but I’ve also developed some bad habits while running it. I need to spend less time on the internet.
The site will remain up for you to browse the archives. 2098 posts in all, accumulated over 3.5 years. Not a bad knock. I still have 3927 links in draft! Some of these have been posted already but most will remain in their purgatorial state, perhaps to be unearthed some day by BCH MKII or in some other form. If you ever sent me music and I said I would post it but did not, I’m very sorry. Things get lost in the backlog and, plainly, I’m a forgetful old bugger. (While I’m here, a little advice to musicians about contacting blogs : do not send giant emails full of band bios, press releases and descriptions of the music. I find it a real turnoff and I know other bloggers do too. Just send the music. It’s all that matters. Also : make nice cover art! Not that hard with technology these days. It matters too).
There are far too many people to thank and acknowledge - by far the best aspect of running BCH has been meeting all the like-minded bloggers, music fans and musicians from around the globe. Your support and kind words have been what’s fuelled the BCH engine, providing me with great inspiration and enjoyment. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to meet a few of you in the flesh some day. I have plans to travel over the next couple of years and if you’re ever in Melbourne do look me up. I’ll be happy to show you our local music scene, which, I maintain, is one of the best in the world. I’ll keep active on the twitter and my email is over there in About. Also be sure to acquaint yourself with my Friends running wonderful blogs and labels if you haven’t already.
Seeing this is my last post I’ll share a couple of my highlights of running BCH with you. Last year myself and Matty Barker of Hawkmoth Records and Water Music organised a benefit gig for the sadly departed Jason Molina. We raised a bit of money for his hospital costs but more important was the positivity we generated from uniting in our love of one mans music and in the singing of his songs. It was a night when I realised the blog had moved far from its beginnings as a time killing endeavour to something much more. It was giving me the opportunity me to meet good people, to share in my appreciation of music with others, and to give something back to that music. It was a very special thing.
The other event that stands out to me was a message I received from Matt of Dream Sick not too long ago. He was appreciative of me featuring his music and revealed that BCH making his album Pick of The Week came at a time when the band was having some struggles. He suggested the BCH post was a shot in the arm for the band during a rocky period, providing some impetus to battle on. So I think it’s fitting that their amazing new album “Morkkis” be the final Bandcamp Hunter post. There isn’t really much more you can ask as a blogger than to play a part, however small, in contributing to a great band putting more music into the world.
I’m going on I know, but I feel I most definitely should acknowledge Bandcamp. When I began it was in its formative stages and has since become a tremendous outlet for a mind blowing range of music from around the world (as has Soundcloud, which I like a lot too). It has been a pleasure to grow my blog alongside Bandcamp; to ride their ever increasing wave, scouring the universe of music that has proliferated within its waters. They are good people with good ideas and a determination to provide digital music with the platform it deserves. Kudos friends. Keep those flames flickering.
To close I urge you to keep supporting the music you love. The world of music has changed completely over the last few years, I believe for the absolute better. The state of music is in the hands of you, the fan, and this is a very, very good thing. Record shops come and go, record labels come and go, blogs come and go, but there will always be people making innovative, challenging and beautiful music. And there will always be people that want to hear it. There are more opportunities now than ever for you to hear that music, though as of today there is one less avenue. But that’s not something to be sad about. Browse the library. Hunt Bandcamp yourself. Keep searching for music that lights up your life, do not settle for mediocrity. Buy that bands music, wear their t-shirts, go to their gigs, tell them they’re great, and sleep well knowing that you are doing something that makes our world a better place.
Thank you, a million times thank you. I’ll see you on the open road.
Bandcamp Hunter Mixtape January 2013
10. green - White+
All songs used with permission
Bandcamp Hunter Mixtape #10 - December 2012
Click here to download the mixtape as a zip (121.8 MB)
4. Rouge - Muhr
Bandcamp Hunter Mixtape #9 October - November 2012
Click here to download all files as a zip (339.2 MB)
10. Fast - Gum
15. Moons - VERMA
Bandcamp Hunter Album of the Year 2012
“My task, which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel-it is, before all, to make you see.”
Rock and roll can save, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Those who scoff at the power of music simply haven’t been listening to the correct things. When an album comes along that gently places a key in your heart, turns it slowly, opens a reservoir of understanding and feelings that you thought had long gone, colours your world in the prettiest of colours, then you know you are listening to music of real power. Music produced by someone creating something magical, created by someone that deserves to be classed as something higher than an artist. James Irwin is magical.
I’ll admit it, it’s a rare thing these days for me to listen to a full album from beginning to end and truly appreciate every nuance, every subtlety. To appreciate the structuring and sequencing of songs that contribute to said album becoming a cohesive whole. An entire work, ten songs that fit together beautifully and offer something you can sit and listen to and become completely engaged with. A collection of songs that offer something new and fascinating with each listen. I probably don’t appreciate lyrics quite so much anymore either, I don’t obsessively analyse metaphors and messages in songs like I used to. Where these confessions are leading, of course, is to Western Transport. An album that reignited my love of well crafted lyrics and the album as an art from.
Thrown out on the burning road,
where the wind was moving stones,
blood pools around my throat,
like river mud between my toes.
Let it sink it in. Give it space.
You are on my mind. Are you in my body too?
When the need goes away will the wanting stay?
Will you sit seven days hanging on guilty dreams?
Are you halfway here? Are you halfway to Mexico?
There’s no way for me to do the quality of these songs justice outside of quoting the lyric. You can listen yourself and read, as these are lyrics that can be read and appreciated on a poetic level. What I can do is expand a little on how they make me feel and what are some of the ideas that lurk within their gently crushing haze.
The reflective quality of these songs from Iriwn are not navel gazing, are not overtly introspective, they are the concise capturing of a vague existential ache that lurks in us all. Music that captures the sad and beautiful feeling of gazing at a glorious sunset, of walking an empty street in the middle of a foggy night and considering it all and nothing at all. Of feeling brutal heartache and wishing it would be gone but understanding this is what we all endure, that this is being alive. “Hearts Like Old Cars” is one of the finest songs I’ve heard in a long, long time. It’s a seemingly simple metaphor that Iriwn uses yet-like the entire album-it is filled with a brilliant swirling depth. The hardening of the heart comes not from cholesterol or double down burgers, but is generated gradually from disappointment, from unrequited love, from too much of life.
Without you I’d be out on a prairie, under a plain blue sky
with my steady eyes, steady mind, steady rolling, steady engine. I’d drive all night.
Hearts like old cars, breaking down, breaking down.
Everybody is haunted, and you cry and cry, never satisfied. Never satisfied.
The longing here is bittersweet and real but there is more to these songs than heartache borne of love gone wrong. These songs are from an artist that is looking at people, looking at how we live, considering how we all think and feel. It is songwriting that posses a power that I rarely find in music, a power usually found only in the greatest literature.
Tie my friends down to their beds
Tie my loves down to their beds
Let these crazy birds fly from their heads
Put me back in old orange town where we drink alone and go home
Cause we are up in the middle of the night
Ringing bells, shining searchlights
The master asked for a word to pass,
We don’t have it anymore
They are words that stop me, that slow time and gently shift gears in my head to different places. To better places. There’s humour in these songs too, quite often I find myself smirking at some of the wonderful, strange imagery within the lyrics. The meandering, otherworldly ”Anyone To Serve” is a softly flowing spring of enchanting words, backed by peculiar sounds that sound something like a passing of miniature steam ships.
Now you’re lying on a lion fur, telling me what you deserve. You wrap your lips around a blur of words, strangest thing I ever heard.
How can anyone, listen to anyone, who’s got their luggage lying all around the room. Love somebody like a child would do.
As if anybody’s blind with faith. As if there’s anyone to serve.
Irwin alludes to big questions of faith here but the disarming humour of “How can anyone, listen to anyone, who’s got their luggage lying all around the room” is the work of an artist at play, of a supreme lyricist. Then there’s the (non) appearance of Alice…
Everyone this is Alice, Alice this is everyone. She came all the way from Baltimore with me, and the only one who can see her is me.
Though they tell me she was never even there, I will carry clothes for Alice to wear, as if anybody’s blind with faith, as if there’s anyone to serve.
I find these lines so funny and fascinating. They are some of the final words of the album and they leave you confused, exuberant and utterly delighted. In these songs Irwin has created a work of art that can be returned to time and time again. An album that you can pick up like that old paper back you love so much and be transported, be given faith in life, be gently reassured that everything is ok and find affirmation that the world is-despite it all-a terribly beautiful place.
Don’t waste your mind. We die all the time.
Bandcamp Hunter Song of the Year 2012
Ice-Cream Treat - Sandcastle
“Levels Jerry, I’m building levels.”
At the opening things are striking though not all together remarkable. There is no clue of what is to come, what lies beyond the opening rumble of guitar and the left-right-left-right-left-right-left-left-left-left-left drum beat. The images are disconcerting. Blackened trees. Glassy eyes. Crystal skies. Sick to the stomach. It evokes Galaxie 500 at their most hallucinatory but the power here is raw, the imagery jarring. Down the hallway we go then, and the floor is reverberating and the walls are dropping away. Max is singing about maybe ghosts and tongues and the mysterious ice-cream treat and it is quite exhilarating and something is happening but I don’t know what it is, do I? At about 3:20 we reach the first “pay off”, the first level. Ryans guitar comes swooping in like a harpie from hades with the sweetest voice I ever did hear, conspiring with the rest of band-and what an extremely tight band they are-to unleash a psychedelic firestorm. The levels are ablaze. But we’re only half way there. Here after things burn and burn and burn for what is measured as three to four minutes, but we are now within a fever dream where you swear you’ve been gone for weeks only to awaken 8:39 later. Levels are melting and here is rock and roll as a Jackson Pollock painting and there Max has become The Scream. The levels are rotating and giving way and we’re not thinking about whether this is punk rock or post punk or art rock or psychedelic rock, we are just glad to be slowly disintegrating in the smouldering surrounds of this majestic song. We’ve been burned in such a beautiful way.
This is undoubtedly my favourite song of the year. Sandcastle are a supremely talented band of young musicians that I admire greatly, even more so because of their incredible live show. They experiment with their music and work off each other live, improvising and expanding each song to greater, more celestial heights with each performance. Most importantly they have a hell of a good time doing it. If you’re in Melbourne tomorrow night (Sunday the 23rd of December) you can see them performing at the Empress on Nicholson Street as part of the Bandcamp Hunter Relaunch Party. They’ve got a lot of new songs, and they’re amazing too.
Best of 2012 - EXPERIMENTAL/DRONE/AMBIENT
I’m sure there’s some program out there that could generate a graph to indicate the activity of the tags I’ve applied to every post this year and if I could get someone to run this program for me I’m sure it would show a rapid growth in the use of the tag “experimental”. In many ways I feel this tag is a bit silly, a bit broad, and aren’t they all, however it is useful in identifying music that challenges ”traditional” structures, that pushes the listeners expectations and often subverts them, that takes you to more interesting places. Cerebral music. Maybe I’ll start using cerebral as a tag. In the past year I feel as if this blog has moved towards featuring more electronic, drone and ambient music and this reflects my own listening habits. A few friends exposed me to a range of ambient and kraut rock music from the 70s and 80s and I thank them kindly for this. It has led to my musical taste shifting in 2012 and hence the blog has taken a different and I believe more interesting form. Layered cosmic synths. Formless shimmering soundscapes. Fractal free form wigouts. Minimal broken down radio drone. This is the sort of thing that I’ve come to relish losing myself within. The wonderful artists below were just some of my favourites that toil in such dazzling fields, incredible musicians that took me on trips to strange and mesmerising places. All aboard.
“We have made this album available for free because we want to share our efforts with as many people as possible, after all, it is for people.”
This is an an attitude that I have come across many times from artists on Bandcamp, often from artists in the experimental sphere. It’s a wonderful community built on positivity and creativity, and I feel as if this is what 2PPM wholly represent. A beautiful warmth emanates from their sound, a driving fusion of jazz and kraut rock that defies categorisation. Tortoise are a touchstone perhaps, but 2PPM are a very different beast. It is not just two people playing music, it is two people constructing totally compelling music. These are musical conversations built on improvisation, on the addition of layers and the removal of sound, on the exploring of musical textures, on two supremely talented musicians creating something that is completely their own. That’s a beautiful thing and 2PPM want to share it with you. That’s beautiful too.
Favourite tracks : Movies Without Sound, The Iron Dreyfuss, Beehive.
Samuel H Wijhtman is Caterpillar Hood, a one man expedition into a pulsing electronic substrata. It’s a disconcerting journey at times - where did that voice come from? What was that? And just when you think you are getting comfortable, the ground will drop way and another psyhedelic dimension is accessed. These are dense sample driven soundscapes, filled with many dark hallucinatory moments. Sparse drone builds to white noise, patterns are applied then deconstructed, then rebuilt again. There is an organic sense to this music yet is distinctly artificial; it is electronic music behaving in a somewhat biological way perhaps. I feel this music visits similar realms that Lee Noble transports the listener to, a place where music casts a many coloured veil over perception. An album that conjures the other worlds within our own.
Favourite tracks : Ocean Floor, Solar Bounce, Submarine.
I could have chosen any of the six albums released by Seattle synth alchemist Norm Chambers this year but I’ve gone with the wonderfully titled Baroque Atrium, the latest of his releases and the one I’ve listened to the most. Released through Sydney label Preservation (with their awesome distinct cover art), these fascinating sci-fi creations offer a transportive musical experience to the devoted listener. Chambers is a true innovator, blending synthesisers with samples, electronic effects and acoustic instruments to produce labyrinthine songs that float through a kind of pixelated haze, at times evoking John Carpenter. While there is a science fiction flavour to these sounds, it is apparent that Chambers also draws on ideas from nature and biology. This year I’ve been studying biological science and Panabrite albums have soundtracked many hours of study. I’ve listened to this music while reading about the endocrine system or DNA transcription or photosynthesis or gated ion channels, and have felt a correlation with these concepts and the sonic inventions of Chambers, that a large part of his inspiration is the natural world. Samples of birds calling and water flowing add to this idea. At times the songs simply sound aqueous, sound like insects swarming, sound like what you imagine cells dividing would sound like. It’s quite a feat from Chambers, in what has been a startlingly productive year. I can’t wait to see what he does next.
Favourite tracks : Interfrequencies, Suite (For Winnie and Roxy), Infinite Passage.
Released on the terrific Fallopian Tunes, this wildly imaginative album from Melbourne’s Trjeau is a gorgeous collection of spaced out experimental rock songs. Like stable mates Yolke, Document Swell and the excellent Mild Life, Trjeau are part of a blossoming experimental scene here in Melbourne and in my opinion this album shifts them to the very upper echelon. These songs have been crafted with great care though at the same time there is a loose improvisational feel to Heights Peak, the sound of a super talented band exploring shimmering psychedelic worlds. It’s an album devoid of filler however the lovely “Endings” is a stand out for me with it’s bright beats and subtle tropical flavour. There are danceable moments yes, but mostly it’s an album of serene sonic space being created and then filled with entrancing electronic textures. It isn’t an album of extended jams-the pulsating Third Eight is the longest song at 6:45-though I get the impression live Trjeau would play and play and play, expanding these songs into works of sprawling pop hypnosis. I get the feeling I need to see them. Soon.
Favourite tracks : Endings, Eastern Singing, Fishpond.
Another absurdly prolific artist (there’s fifteen releases awaiting your compulsory investigation at his Bandcamp), Paul Skomsvol has been releasing music for some time as Former Selves, with this album being quite a departure for the Oakland resident. Most other Former Selves releases are slowly unfolding synthesiser compostions, lush soundscapes that gently billow and drift by like so many clouds. I love those pristine works but I found the stirring tribal sounds of Build to be something of a revelation. Drawing from a deep kaleidoscopic kraut rock well, Skomsvol performs these songs with a tangible exuberance. It sounds like an artist creating sounds that are less abstract and restrained than his other work, and enjoying the experience. Distorted guitar and vocals feature heavily, with the brilliant “Mine Also Races” being a jubilant high point. “Evening Rituals” reminds me a bit of Black Hoods in it’s evocation of an approaching midnight storm, powered by a thumping rainmaker of a beat. It’s no mistake that I’m using clouds as a metaphor again. Skomsvol’s music is of the sky. It’s from a higher place.
Favourite tracks : Mine Also Races, Build, Trace Vision
You should also check out :
Best of 2012 - FOLK/SINGER SONGWRITER/COUNTRY
This is the sort of music that scrapes away at my dried, cracked veneer and actually makes me feel something. I don’t listen to as much country or folk music as I used to; certainly in the mid 00’s country and folk music dominated my listening habits as I discovered the joys of past greats like John Prine and Gram Parsons while fostering an obsession with modern greats like Steve Earle, Gillian Welch and The Jayhawks, not to mention the amazing scene we have here in Melbourne. These albums remind me of what it is I love about country and folk however - brilliant lyrics that are often both warm and cutting, surges of melancholy and that feeling of closeness to a song that comes only from music composed with true honesty. Serve with wine, and winter.
It’s a hard thing to convince a musician friend that you genuinely love their music, that you’re platitudes aren’t influenced by your friendship, that your opinions aren’t borne from prejudiced places. So I hope Matty Barker of Water Music knows that when I say this album is his strongest work yet that this is not a biased point of view, that I have listened to an ocean of music this year and that this stands up as one of my very favourite albums. Just like his earlier releases that I developed a fondess for well before actually meeting him, the thing that draws you into these songs are the lyrics and their unmistakably honest delivery. Barker writes songs like he breathes air, a constant flow of varied and beautiful creations that tell tales of longing and love, of good times and bad, of existential ache and wide eyed wonder. It was a joy to watch this album unfold as Matty added songs and withdrew them, providing a running commentary of what he liked and what he didn’t. I think it’s a great way for artists to interact with their audiences and I think Matty is doing truly exciting things with Bandcamp and his label Hawk Moth. Mostly though, I think he’s just a shit hot songwriter.
Favourite tracks : Wayward, Mountain, Eugene’s Ghost, I forget
When I gave James Irwin a plug in the midyear BCH round up I described him as a “ghostly poet”. Back then the haunting had only just begun and I can now say that this album has well and truly inhabited me, it is the record that I have listened to most of all this year, Bandcamp or otherwise. Created over a two year period, this is a superbly produced record that positively glows with strange and the beautiful moments, music that evokes the joyous moments of life while also gazing within to reflect on the endless galaxy that inhabits us all. That might sound like a stretch for a mere folk rock album, but allow yourself to absorb these lyrics, to be taken by the hand by Irwin into his curious and incredibly detailed world, and you may well undergo a similar transportive musical journey. I have such great affection for Western Transport, and such gratitude to Irwin for providing what I regard to be a grand musical achievement.
Favourite tracks : Bluedust, Hearts Like Old Cars, Ringing Bells, Anyone To Serve.
Another record that I love beyond words. I said things were going to get emotional didn’t I? The teaming of songwriters Boyd Shropshire and Chase King sure was a good one, to put it mildly. These are country rock and roll songs with a beautiful vibrancy, heartfelt laments and bustling rockers that stir something from deep within, something strong. It’s a feeling I get while listening to Uncle Tupleo or the Jayhawks, upon just hearing a few bars I get a little bleary eyed and start sighing and feel the need to loudly declare the love of said band. That’s how I feel about Slow Country. “Stars That Lead Us! Siiiiigh I love that song so much”. My friends can confirm this happening on many occasions throughout the year. You get the picture. There are also many poignant moments on this record that leave you stunned- “Song Was In The Mirror” and “One of the Few” are devastating, in an ecstatic-to-be-slowly-drowning-in-honey kinda way. What a pairing, what an album.
Favourite tracks : Starts That Lead Us, One of the Few, Down The Road.
Timothy Showalter produced his greatest work with Dark Shores, drawing on 70’s west coast country rock and 60’s folk to produce a towering album. Like contemporaries Phosphorescent and Iron and Wine, Strand of Oaks is a one man project that has grown from minimal beginnings to more expansive sounds. It’s a gentle beginning to Dark Shores with the sublime “Diamond Drill”, but rockers like “Satellite Moon” and “Trap Door”(one of my top tunes of the year) demonstrated Showalter stretching his wings to take the Strand of Oaks sound to higher, more exhilarating places. It’s his handling of dark country tales where he is at his most potent however, with “Maureen’s” and the title track being particularly fine examples of a songwriter at his absolute peak. A troubling listen at times, but it’s a majestic one.
Favourite tracks : Trapdoor, Maureen’s, Hard To Be Young.
What a thrilling surprise this was. I vaguely recall coming across this album late at night, possibly after a few gins, and my poor old eyes being extended from their sockets at the sight of the names of two such amazing songwriters side by side. Then my ears got in on the action and oh boy, my heart was next to go. I wasn’t as familiar with Donovan Quinn (the Skygreen Leopards) as I was Michael James Tapscott (Odawas) (one of my favourite musicians) but it proved to be a glorious paring of talent, both possessing immaculate voices and a songwriting style that was in a way traditional yet stretched somewhere skyward, towards cosmic folk. The distinct spectre of Neil Young floats through these sparse songs, with many being especially evocative of the acoustic recordings on Rust Never Sleeps and After The Gold Rush. I don’t know the backstory of this albums recording but it has a haphazard feel to it, as if the songs were created quickly after a spirited collaboration. It’s all the better for it, as such immediacy results in something vital, something built with the energy of a moment. Something special.
Favourite tracks : The People of Idaho, Many Safe Returns, Anne, Marlene Left California, OTW Marlene
Also in the mix:
Best of BCH 2012 - PSYCHEDELIC/POST PUNK/SHOEGAZE
Regular vistors to BCH will know I bandy the word “psychedelic” around a whole lot. I like my noise, my long songs, my bands that inject that intangible galactic flavour into their music through showers of feedback and disembodied vocals. I’m mad for that shit. Shoegaze and psychedelic are pretty much the same thing as far as I’m concerned, the difference exists in the attitude. Geographically, the US provided a lot of wonderful stuff in both genres though the UK and Australia also clearly have a killer scene. As for post punk, it may not surprise you to learn I found a lot of great European bands pedalling such detached tribal sounds this year though it seems pretty much every country has some band doing any given sound very well. I’ve found a mountain of music that fits these categories this year and it was a straight up bitch narrowing down my top 5 but here they are kids, for your tuning in and dropping out pleasure.
Going way back to the start of the year for a little EP that I’m still enamoured with. Grandparents are a Portland outfit with a brilliantly diverse psychedelic/shoegaze sound (yes I say they are both) - I guarantee that in the four tracks on this EP you’d generate more musical power than every popular rock album released this year combined. The spaghetti western tinged “Arrows” is a fantastic opener (it still reminds me of something that I can’t place) though there are much bigger things to come here. As the name suggests, “Slowave” is a beautifully paced slow burner but it’s “Fumes” that’s the pinnacle of this release and most definitely one of my favourite songs of the year. No point me trying to sell you, the player is right up there, stream it, turn it up and enjoy the hell out of yourself. What a rock and roll masterpiece. “Golden Isles”, that’s a great song too, but my gushing should indicate what song it was that (still) has me all gooey fan boy over Grandparents.
Favourite tracks : All (theres only 4!)(theme alert)
New Myths EP - New Myths
Bursting onto the scene with a scorching sound that encompasses all three of these genres, New Myths established themselves as yet another white hot prospect out of New York City with this self titled EP. What I really liked about these songs was the play of post punk darkness and psychedelic pop melodies; the sublime harmonising of Britney Boras, Marina Ross and Rosie Glassman up against those tribal rhythms and soaring synths. “False Gold” is the undoubted high point. With it’s utterly danceable electro groove and exhilarating pay off, it’s the greatest party in New York you’ve never been to, it’s iridescent city lights whizzing by amongst amphetamine fuelled madness, it’s sexy as hell. It’s totally New Myths.
Favourite tracks : All (there’s only 3!)
I get my decent share of recommendations here at BCH - probably no more than the average blogger (of which I am one) - and I can confidently say that Michael from Nutritional Content sending me this EP from Melbourne psychedelic wunderkinds Sandcastle was my Recommendation Of The Year. Congratulations, Michael. To the actual music then and, full disclosure, my opinion of this lot was greatly elevated by having seen them live several times throughout the year. Like a lot of psychedelic music, it’s best heard live to get the full visceral effect and not only do these four guys perform these songs incredibly well, they expand and twist and reimagine them every time they play. It’s a joy to behold. They’re a true band is what I’m saying, and I have a very strong feeling this astonishing EP is merely the tip of the iceberg for them. Thanks again Michael and thank you Sandcastle, may there be many more good times to come.
Favourite track : most definitely all.
Dream Sick - Dream Sick (this was a 2011 release but I will allow it)
I remember coming across this album from Tucson’s Dream Sick at a time when I was feeling a bit jaded with this caper - it happens, honest. Turned out the exuberance of this album was exactly what I needed, it’s intoxicating stuff. I love the live quality to this recording, with its loose crashing and frenetic feel I suppose you could call the Dream Sick sound “psychedelic garage”. There’s a lot of variety here though-from the spaced out opener “Shine On Shine” to the nineties indie of “Waste Time” to the impossibly gorgeous country-esque charm of “Long John”, Dream Sick showed themselves to be both an inventive and seriously talented band. Apparently this album was produced under trying circumstances and I think that’s the other thing that makes it so great : it was built with heart.
Favourite tracks : “Shine On Shine”, “Know Your Heart”, “Long John”
An album that I fell for straight from the start. How can you not be transfixed by the ethereal beauty of opener “Safely Aboard the Mother Cell”? How I ask you? The good news is, once your aboard, the Star Spangled KGB (what a name!!) will not probe and reprogram you, but take you on a voyage to truly spectacular psychedelic places. Their sound is so brooding, so dark, and it also shines. Like onyx. Speaking of rocks, “Jewel” is perhaps the most powerful song on an album full of high potency thrillers, a simmering rock song that explodes into a reverberating sonic catharsis. Things get softer at times - the acoustic strum along of “Big Zero” and the sublime ambience of “Waiting for the Light (Reprise)”-but it’s when SSKGB set the controls for the stars that they’re at their finest. The 12 minute closer Messiah is a great example of this and a great example of what I love about psychedelic rock and roll : long, disorientating, sinister and an absolute mindfuck. I take what back what I said about being reprogrammed. I will do whatever Star Spangled KGB tell me to.
Favourite tracks : Messiah, Safely Aboard the Mother Cell, Stargazer.
Also worthy of your time:
Best of 2012 - POP/INDIE/LO-FI
It’s been a big year for all things jangly and poppy, especially here in Melbourne. “The New Pop Underground” was the label given to the surge of guitar pop bands in our fair town as it seemed every week a new group popped up, armed with a hot little EP of songs that were often poignant, often funny, and always good. Of course, there were a million other wonderful “pop” and “indie”bands to surface on Bandcamp from around the globe but below are the ones I listened to and enjoyed the most. Often the term “slacker” is applied to these bands but I can tell you that whether it’s a solo bedroom artist or a full band, the artists featured here work harder than anyone I know, in any profession. So it’s not just their beautiful sunny tunes I thank them for, but also for the inspiration they’ve provided me through their goddamn hard yakka.
I recall being impressed by the initial White Birds release last year but I wasn’t prepared for the brilliance of this album. The project of one James Harvey from Pennsylvania (seemingly supported by a rotating cast of musicians), White Birds dip into a myriad of musical influences on “When Women Played Drums” to create an album that shines brightly on every track. Yes Harvey borrows-there are elements of doo wop, of soul, of garage rock, of nineties indie, of lo-fi folk-but the sonic bower he creates with these parts is so enchanting and so uniquely his own sound that the listener comes away feeling this is something fresh, new and quite vital. These White Birds are a terribly clever breed, and they have quite a song to sing.
Favourite tracks : Youths, Beehive, Veins Lined With Rust.
Summer Flake EP - Summer Flake
After playing in a stack of great bands (Batrider, No Through Road), this was the debut solo release of Steph Crase and, man, it’s a beauty. There’s a laconic feel to these songs (I’m avoiding using “slack”) that swim by in lovely blur at times (“Inside Out”) though a perfectly placed buzzing guitar line is never far away. And oh those guitars. There’s a beautiful tone to the instruments throughout though the dance between the guitars and Crase’s breathy vocals is a wonderful thing to behold, often recalling Georgia Hubley of Yo La Tengo. She’s a terrific songwriter to - these song have a real yearning, an authentic prettiness borne of finely crafted lyrics. I’m not even close to getting sick of these songs, doubt I ever will.
Favourite tracks : Run Run Run, The Wedding March (for Jess & Kynan), Inside Out.
Talk about hard working. Courtney Barnett had been playing around Melbourne for a while before this year but 2012 saw her playing more gigs than anyone I know, all on the back of this cracking EP. From the first listens and the initial gigs it was obvious these were songs that were both highly likeable and a little bit different than a lot of other guitar pop going around. Barnett likes to jam and these songs are never in hurry to adhere to any pop rules-see the extended “Are You Looking After Yourself?” and the circular, almost trance like feel to “Canned Tomatoes (whole)”. But she’s a music fan too and draws on her influnces to great effect- there’s country rock and roll here, there’s garage pop there, there’s Cobain and Dando hanging out having a Melbourne Bitter on the garden wall over there. Very much the sound of the suburbs we live in and the shit that goes on within them in 2012.
Favourite tracks : Are You Looking After Yourself?, Canned Tomatoes (whole), Lance Jr.
I carp on about honesty in songs a lot and if you know Curtis Wakeling you now these are honest songs. Not in a cathartic-blood on the tracks-crazy horse raw honesty kinda way, but in a “I got drunk and fell off my bike-awkward walk homes after a one night stand-getting high with my mates” sort of way. There’s a wistful longing to some tracks too - “Thawing Out” is a great little song about Melbourne’s favourite subject and the vague nostalgia the changing of seasons provokes. The unassuming charm of these songs lays in Curtis’s simple lyrics and the simple sound-no bass, just Ocean Party cohorts Lachlan Denton on drums and the ubiquitous Snowy Nasdaq on guitar along with Curtis. So, less is certainly more here, but the irony in saying this is that the bands Curtis and the other members of Velcro are connected to have put out like 35 albums in 2012. I dug everything they did, but this was my favourite.
Favourite tracks : G&T, Thawing Out, Awkward Mornings.
Talk to Gentle Stunts main dude Cal McNamara about his band and he is unabashed in his biggest influence. Perhaps you can pick it. Have a listen ^. Yes, McNamara is a Guided By Voices devotee and proud of it. The GBV sound certainly permeates this album in the lo-fi production, obtuse lyrics and the contrast of noise and crisp guitar but McNamara is a fine songsmith in his own right, a Berlin native who at 20 years old has already produced two rather brilliant albums. I’m very fond of all the songs on this album; of their sweet harmonies and the unexpected twists and turns of their winding pop structures. Lose yourself in the payoff of “Hills in the Dark”, walk the streets at dusk while taking in the wistful (and Teenage Fanclub-esque) “Till You’re Often”, get drunk in your frontyard and dance with your friends while “Waving Rather Soon” blasts. This album wants to have a relationship with you. Don’t fight it.
Favourite tracks : Figments in Red, Tall Retrieve, A Past of Fast Lashings.