ALBUM REVIEW: Abbe May – Kiss My Apocalypse

640x640-cAbbe May

Kiss My Apocalypse 

– (Independent/MGM) –

By the sound of her guitar slashing 2011 debut, Design Desire, Abbe May seemed ready to unleash 70’s rock/sex hell on the world. Influential blog Popmatters declared that she was “ready to destroy the rock world”, and she snatched up a nomination for the Australian Music Prize. She seemed ready to take up the mantle of modern rock heroine.

Which makes the screeching U-turn of her followup intriguing. Or perhaps not to her, at least: “I’m bored with standard rock”, May states in the press release, “I’m bored with the standard cool.” That probably explains why Kiss My Apocalypse eschews rock in favour of minimalist, pulsing R&B and laptop driven synth-pop.

Produced by May and Sam Ford, It’s an oddly incoherent collection – tracks are stitched together with quiet interludes that often only contain a throbbing drum machine (opener ‘Hurricane Heartbeat’), or screwed up vocal harmonies (the aptly named ‘Cyberpunk Choir’).

When the songs do take form, often they’re more like imprints than actual structures, ‘T.R.O.U.B.L.E’ exists on a pumped up vocal hum with some doomsday synths providing the backbone, and ‘Want Want Want’ doesn’t go much beyond the same formula.

May described her new style as ‘doom-pop’, and even beyond the world-is-ending song titles it’s a curious description. May revels in darkness and sensuality, the lyrics full of post-coital cigarettes and sexual imagery. Singing of betrayal and heartbreak, May definitely resembles the victor, and the songs burn with a distinct ‘screw you’ mentality.

The better cuts on the record play to this strength: single ‘Karmageddon’ is built on a hellish synth shudder and thick vocal lines, and the title track is a slow, sonic kick in the teeth to her foes.

As a slinking pop experiment, it excels, the songs belonging to the kind of late night meet ups that it so describes. As a contemporary pop release, it’s also interesting, owing as much to The xx as it does to Frank Ocean. Whether or not it’s the successful genre cross over that May desires may remain to be seen.

Rating: 6.5/10

Kiss My Apocalypse is in stores now.

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ALBUM REVIEW: Half Moon Run- Dark Eyes

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Half Moon Run

Dark Eyes

What goes on up there in Canada?? For such a polite, chilly country they’ve managed to turn out some of the most prolific and successful artists of the last 50 years (Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, Alanis Morisette, Tegan and Sara…), completely altering the musical landscape in a thoroughly unreserved and un-Canadian way.

From this great bed of influences, it’s not surprising that Canada still cultivates some of the most interesting music around. Emerging from Montreal with debut record Dark Eyes, indie rock outfit Half Moon Run have created one of the most impressive albums of recent years. In just under 40 minutes, the group have cut 11 tracks that balance skittered percussion with dreamy vocals, intricate guitar lines with bouncing keyboards, and three part harmonies that the Dixie Chicks would kill for.

It’s this profound ear for balance that gets the mind humming. Songs that manage to hold down atmospheric soundscapes with danceable grooves at their base work so well you wonder why nobody does this all the time. As a bewitching case in point, opener ‘Full Circle’ is a cold piece of folk – a thumping percussive beat with Devon Portielje slip sliding his way through the lyrics atop a crisp acoustic. On the jittery ‘Call Me In The Afternoon’, the harmonies touch down momentarily before leaping to the next line, spurred on by the clacking drum sticks.

They’re alright on the slower stuff as well. ‘Need It’ is perhaps the obligatory love song, but luckily the pillow soft harmonies will get you through. ‘Nerve’ may just be the standout, a twisting mid-tempo groove with a softly pawing hook. Sure, they may shamelessly channel Radiohead on cruisers ‘Drug You’ and ‘Give Up’, but it’s still viewed through their own prism. And it’s that distinct, complicated prism that make Dark Eyes such a sonically arresting record.

Rating: 9.0/10 

The Love Junkies thrash it out on single ‘Maybelene’

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The Love Junkies

Maybelene

Built on a spine crunching bass line, new single from Perth thrashers The Love Junkies is a bruiser of epic proportions.

If you’re still able to resist, the throat tearing rasps from singer Mitch McDonald probably will get you in the end, but there’s a surprising amount of melody hidden within the chaos that keep you interested even when you’re ears are exploding.

Daft Punk return with disco jam “Get Lucky”

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Daft Punk ft. Pharrell Williams

Get Lucky

You might not expect the new track from French electronic duo Daft Punk to be an old school disco ode – but that’s exactly what it is.

Featuring Pharrell Williams on vocals, the track has more in common with Earth, Wind & Fire than “Around The World”, with sleek synth lines and a jaunty melody. But lord, it’s nice they’re back.

Beyonce returns with bruising new single “Bow Down/ I Been Done”

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Beyonce 

Bow Down/ I Been Done

Probably the most telling lyric of “Bow Down/ I Been Done” comes before the minute mark, where Beyonce sneers ‘I took some time to live my life/ But don’t think I’m just his little wife.”

In fact, if you had any ideas about abandoning Beyonce for another pop diva, this hard and fast cut from her upcoming LP Mrs Carter will sort you out quickly – pitch altered raps compete with slick vocals above the chewiest, most screwed up beats that producer Hit-Boy could muster up.

Lady Antebellum gets happy on new single “Downtown”

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Lady Antebellum

Downtown

With old rival Taylor Swift currently occupied with conquering the pop world, Lady Antebellum is still serving up slices of Nashville country like there’s no tomorrow.

Rolling with stabs of Hammond organ and gentle curls of pedal steel, Downtown may just be the warmest song this side of the sun, refusing to be dampened even by the hilariously cringeworthy video banter.

Movin’ on up: An Interview with The Griswolds

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Still spinning from their breakout success in 2012, Sydney band The Griswolds are currently gearing up for a headline tour, plus also beginning to record their debut. They managed to find a few minutes in their hectic schedule to have a chat with us. 

You guys had a pretty great year in 2012, what stands out as the highlight?

Parklife was a massive highlight for us, we won the triplej unearthed slot and it was the first Festival we had played together, so we were all really stoked! We had to work really hard and step it up to share the stage with such amazing bands there, so it was a huge learning curve for us.

“Heart Of A Lion” really blew up, did you realise when you wrote it that it would be such so big?

No, no idea at all, Dan and I knew it was one of the better songs we’d written in our lifetime, but we never imagined our music would get noticed all around the world. We just love song writing and performing, we had no expectations, we still find it hard to believe that the band is actually doing reasonably well

You’re about to embark on the “The Courtship of Summer Preasley” tour, before heading overseas, so what’s the best and worst thing about being on the road?

I don’t think we’ve experienced the bad side of touring yet, we love every aspect of touring. It’s like a big road trip (we drive most places) with your best mates and in each new town you get play music and party with a bunch of new people.

Do you go through any superstitious, pre-show rituals?

Yeah, no one is allowed to be sober before a show

What makes a good audience?

As soon as the band you love walks out on stage, all of a sudden everyone in the room that you’ve never met becomes your best friend and you all get drunk together and sing along to your favourite songs, that makes a great audience!

 How do you like to wind down after a gig?

We usually do our winding down in the tour van the next day.

You’re set to record the follow-up to last year’s EP later in the year, do you have an idea of what you’d like it to sound like?

We’d love it to be a fusion of Devendra Banhart, MGMT, Frank Ocean and Alt-J.

 What should audiences expect from these upcoming shows?

Audiences should expect that we’re going to expect them to party with us!

“The Courtship of Summer Preasley” Tour kicks off April 11 at the Great Northern Hotel, Byron Bay