Jeff Tweedy – Together At Last

So much of what makes an album merely good rather than great is how well it captures the presence of the musicians and the energy of the room. This record feels like it could have elevated to great with a more vibrant setting.

A big part of Wilco and Tweedy’s charm is the rapport he builds with a crowd, especially in the more intimate settings. This record feels like only part of the story is being told. Recorded with just Tweedy, his acoustic guitar, harmonica, and the occasional smattering of electric guitar, it doesn’t have the same immediacy of the solo Jeff Tweedy I have heard in the past.

This record feels like it has been recorded to be played in the background. It eschews all the details and nuance that make the songs work as acoustic numbers. I’ve heard many different bootlegs and “I am Trying to Break Your Heart”  with just his voice, an acoustic guitar and the energy of the audience is every bit as compelling as the studio version. He paints with fewer strokes on these recordings, which makes me think it’d be a good one to hear in a room rather than through headphones.

Together At Last is good, don’t get me wrong. Tweedy has that ability to be utterly captivating with just an acoustic guitar. The electric guitar at the end of “In A Future Age” is a  nice touch, as are the country-esque guitar bends on “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart.” But by removing the room full of people, the record lacks the electric atmosphere his sparse solo arrangements need to sparkle.




Lorde – Melodrama

From the album title, I was expecting something far more interesting.

Lorde’s debut swept the globe and became famous for its world-weary look at teenage life, with a narrator whose voice was at once starry-eyed and pragmatic.

Melodrama’s first misstep was substituting Joel Little for Jack Antonoff. The first is a career musician whose tight instrumentation and stark production gave Pure Heroine an instantly recognisable sound and packed angst into every finger click. The latter is a hipster doofus who clearly doesn’t understand the ethos of “less is more.” The vocal melodies are either overwhelmed by the instruments or they’re left undercooked and half-arsed. Antonoff’s only success on this record is making Lorde sound like everything else on the radio.

The songs released prior to the album launch were either instantly forgettable (“Green Light”, “Perfect Places”) or mortifyingly twee (“Liability”). This pattern continues until everything is lost in a blur of boring beats and synth drone, losing the crispness for which Pure Heroine was famous.

As for the singer herself, she seems to have grown from smart, incisive teenager, to a ditzy narcissist. She sounds far less mature on her second record. Instead of cutting deep into the psyche, she focusses on light up floors, dance parties and how hard everything is for her.

I suspect this record will sell a truckload, but when the hype dies down it will be filed under “Second Album Syndrome.”

Arca – Arca

This record is everything you could want from a record. It’s dark and eerie, it’s light and airy, it has parts that make you want to curl up in a ball, and others that inspire you to shout from the rooftops. Metaphorically of course.

It has grand, sweeping landscapes, and tight intimate portraits, all within the same song. It combines large operatic elements, with plinky plonky bits, scattered and disordered drum sounds with four on the floor simplicity, and does it without ever sounding predictable.

The obvious touchstones for a record like are Aphex Twin, Flying Lotus and Four Tet. The combination of organic sounds with electronic create soundscapes that have depth and feel like they go on forever into the distance.

Song of the day …coming to terms with the unavoidable

The Sunday evening after a long weekend is the worst time anyone can ever have. The four days, where they once stretched out in front of you full of possibilities, now seem like some strange haze and you have no idea where they went. All you know is that you have to go to work tomorrow and you are devastated.

Today’s song is both a pick me up and a surrendering. The Red Hot Chili Peppers were my favourite band in high school and as much as I tried to distance myself from them after the ill-fated Navarro era, I can’t help but remain enamoured with them. I like their Hillel Slovak stuff, their Frusciante stuff, their Klinghoffer stuff is growing on me, and fuck it, why not, I like their Navarro stuff. I can’t properly explain it but I am coming to terms with it. There are no records quite like Freaky Styley, The Uplift Mofo Party Plan or Blood Sugar Sex Magik, and while they may have their failings, originality is not one of them. For better or worse, they give a shit at every second and for that I like them.

There. I said it. Go fuck yourself.

Song of the day. A legalise special… 

Read this article today about how dogs like reggae. Despite clearly being a scientific investigation of the highest calibre it is filed under politics on Esquire, which leads me to believe it is propaganda for the issue of legalising cannabis. I’m just not sure what side it is on. Peter Tosh in honour of the canine species’ commitment to the legalise movement. Or in protest if they are against it…

Playlist of the week – Australia Day Special

Australia Day is one of the reasons I love being in this country. In New Zealand, our national day, Waitangi Day, is fraught with guilt and confusion and feels more like a day of mourning than celebration or commemoration or reflection.

However, as a white office worker, Australia Day is a great chance to take an extra day off to create a four-day weekend and make January, typically a bummer of a month after returning to work from Christmas, a little less painful. I can just say “fuck it” and eat some food, drink some booze and not think about any of that depressing stuff like the slaughter of an indigenous people, frontier wars, or the continued marginalisation of vulnerable people. This licence to not give a shit is a refreshing break from progression.

Song of the day for today

It turns out that keeping this theme running is even harder than playlist of the week. Luckily, Spotify just released a list of the songs I have listened to the most in 2016 and that seemed as good a place as any to find a song. Apparently “Berlin Got Blurry” by Parquet Courts is the song I had on heaviest rotation. I know, I was surprised too. I mean, I listened to it a lot and I really liked it, but the most for an entire year? I feel a little guilty that I listened to it, and the record it is from, so often without buying it outright, but I have bought other records of theirs for full price so it all comes out in the wash. It’s also better than just finding it on YouTube and preventing the band making even the modest sum of money Spotify offers artists.

Song of yesterday

A while ago I downloaded an app … I forget what it is called… I want to say Who Sampled… maybe… anyway, it basically runs its algorithm through your music collection and picks out all the songs with samples and identifies from whence they came. I’ve always marvelled at the attention to detail required to hear a song and pick out some three-note riff that is then used to form the basis of a new one. Wu Tang are particularly awesome at it. Yesterday’s song of the day is Pee Wee’s Dance, sampled by The Roots for their song “Get Busy”.