Watch the New Quintessential Doll Video, “Take Your Medication”

Quintessaential Doll
Image Courtesy of Quintessential Doll

Quintessential Doll’s “Take Your Medication” is a musical commentary of today’s overly-medicated, anxiety-ridden society. This animated music video uses surreal carnival imagery to highlight the whimsical nature of the song whilst drawing on the sinister connotations of the story by using silhouettes of ominous characters. “Take Your Medication” is from the Let Not the Monsters Destroy Me EP.

Review: “Shape of Love” – Passenger feat. Boy & Bear

Passenger
Image Courtesy of Passenger

“I only came inside to get out of the rain
And by the looks of things she may well have done the same”

Given the volume of quality folk music that has been released this year I was pretty sure I had my top five tracks of 2010 locked in. Then comes along this gem from UK singer-songwriter Passenger featuring Aussie boys Boy & Bear and blows everything out of the water. “Shape of Love” has the potential to be the upset song of the year and nobody saw it coming.

“I stir my tea, throw a wayward cigarette,
I watch her shivering in a rain sodden dress,
I know her makeup runs and her hair may be a mess,
But she’s the shape of love”

The premise is simple: guy ducks into a cafe to get out of the rain, sees the perfect woman doing the same, and hopes the rain never stops so the moment will never end. Simple. But the execution is what makes this an absolutely cracking song. From the driving, brushed drum beat, to the banjo part through the musical breaks to the subtle mandolin chords simmering below the surface of the melody, “Shape of Love” is just a joy to listen to.

“I don’t ever, want the rain to stop,
I don’t ever, want leave this coffee shop,
And I don’t ever, want the clouds to part,
Cos the shape of love’s the only shape that fits my heart”

Mike Rosenberg, the mastermind behind Passenger, has a soothing rootsy voice which fits well with this kind of sweet, innocent music. I’ve heard comparisons with James Blunt but I think there’s a smoother quality to Rosenberg’s lyrical style. He’s complimented well with Boy & Bear’s Dave Hosking singing the harmonies and verses of his own, and it’s obvious both vocalists are having a lot of fun with the simplicity of the song (you can just see the pair nodding their heads with the beat).

“Cos I don’t know where this one’s going to end,
Or how it may begin,
She’s the shape of love”

“Shape of Love” is the first outing from Passenger’s forthcoming album Flight of the Crow featuring the creme of Australia’s musical talent. You can download the song here or listen to it below. Flight of the Crow will be released September 17th. Single of the year? Well, there’s only a few months left to work that out.

Review: “1+1” – Owl Eyes

Owl Eyes
Image Courtesy of Owl Eyes

Since it disappeared from our screens Australian Idol seems to have shifted from cultural-cringe to a well of musical talent. Lisa Mitchell and Matt Corby are the obvious standouts from the show but other ex-contestants are starting the shrug off the reality TV shackles and make their way onto our radios and into our local venues.

One such singer to emerge from Idol is Owl Eyes, otherwise known as Melbourne singer Brooke Addamo. Owl Eyes is currently doing her best to break into the music scene proper and critics and industry insiders are starting to sit up and take notice.

I was lucky enough to get my hot little hands on Owl Eyes’ new song “1+1” and it’s an absolute indie-pop gem. Reminiscent of early Kate Nash (before she decided she wanted to be Lily Allen) or a gutsier Lisa Mitchell, “1+1” has all the essential elements needed to wow the hipster crowd. Cute melodies, angelic harmonisation and breathy lyrics combine with a syncopated beat and tinkling piano to instantly hook you in.

In a country obsessed with the likes of Lisa Mitchell, Julia Stone and Sarah Blasko it’s very easy to see how a song like “1+1” from an artist like Owl Eyes has a chance of capturing our hearts. Addamo’s voice is distinct enough to distinguish her from her peers yet familiar enough to build a strong following. If “1+1” is anything to go by then Owl Eyes may be a name to remember.

To listen to “1+1” for yourself head to the Owl Eyes MySpace.

Review: Basement Birds, Bundle 3

Bundle 3
Image Courtesy of iTunes

Part of me is a little sad that the third bundle marks the final release from Basement Birds, and not only because it will give me less to blog about. I’ve been more genuinely excited about this band than any other over the past couple of months and once the full album is released (yesterday) and the tour is over that’s it – the boys will go back to their respective bands and we’ll here no more from the Basement Birds (probably).

The third and final digital bundle from the band breaks from tradition and features four tracks, “Cinnamon and Smoke”, “All That I Feel”, “Ghosts” and “Hamilton Hill”. Once again the 70’s folk-rock influences are all there, however this bundle feels a lot looser than the last couple and definitely has a “jam-band” feel.

“Cinnamon and Smoke” once again takes the band into Crosby, Stills and Nash territory with bluesy harmonies and a rollicking beat. Kevin Mitchell writes on the Basement Birds blog “Hopefully [Cinnamon and Smoke] gives you, the listener, a sense of what it was really like in the recording studio when all of us were in there together” which I think is bang on. The band have kept the production of this song pretty raw with all the bumps and giggles left in for great effect. I’m a huge fan of the clapping drum beat and when the song descends in farce with the boys improv over the honky-tonk piano you know they must have just had so much fun recording this.

“All That I Feel” is one of the band’s slower songs and stands out as a result. While heartbreak seems to be a recurring theme across many of the Basement Birds songs in the past it has been coupled with a sweetness or catchy tune. But this time the melancholy of the lyrics informs the melancholy of the music and you have a sad sad song as a result.

“Ghosts” once again sees what should essentially be a Josh Pyke song pulled out and given the Basement Birds treatment. Something about this song makes me think of Pyke’s track “Middle of the Hill” probably because of the volume of lyrics and the non-linear chord progressions in the verses. But while the Pyke-ness of this song is overwhelmingly obvious the man is one of Australia’s best songwriters and this track is up their with his best.

“Hamilton Hill” is the first and only instrumental from the Basement Birds. It’s a nice, free flowing exercise into 70s fingerpicking and slide guitar. The track would not have been out of place on the Almost Famous soundtrack or that of some other Cameron Crowe film. While not a standout (and at under 2 minutes hardly even a full track) it’s probably the perfect way to round out the final release from the boys.

Overall a more solid outing than the previous bundle but still not as good as the first. The physical form of the album is promising one more unreleased song but other than that I think is the perfect way to finish up what has been a great set of releases from Australia’s best supergroup. Here’s hoping the popularity of the bundles convinces the boys to get together for a second album some time down the track.

Review: Basement Birds, Bundle Two

Bundle Two
Image Courtesy of iTunes

From what I’ve been reading about the Basement Birds part of the reason they’ve decided to release their album online as three separate bundles is because they wrote and recorded it that way – over three separate sessions. And while the band will be releasing the full album on 16th July I think they made the write decision splitting it into three.

The second bundle, containing the tracks “Holly”, “Hardest Part” and “Heartache on the Radio”, has a distinctly different sound to the first. The same influences are there (all three tracks are still banjo and acoustic guitar heavy) but whereas the first bundle was a full of folk-pop goodness the second is heavy on the 70s Americana rock invoking The Eagles, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Bruce Springsteen and of course Dylan.

“Holly” in particular captures this 70s sound. There’s a Billy Joel melody hiding in the chorus. “Born to Run” can be heard through the strains of Kav Temperley’s voice. And the harmonies are textbook Crosby, Stills and Nash. Beginning with a simple acoustic guitar the track builds with the addition of piano, harmonica, rhythm section and vocals unlike it turns into a rollicking love song you could imagine being played on a jukebox somewhere in middle America. The lap-steel guitar adds the final, perfect element to the track sealing it’s place as the band’s most American sounding song to date.

To me “Hardest Part” sounds like it should have been a Josh Pyke track. The opening chord progression (along with Pyke’s voice) wouldn’t sound out of place on Chimney’s Afire or Memories & Dust. The harmonies and piano arrangement (along with the second verse sung by Temperley) pull the song into Basement Birds territory but Pyke’s solo sound is all over this track. Which isn’t a bad thing considering how talented the man is. My only complaint with “Hardest Part” is the lap-steel solo: It seems a little forced and a little amateurish. But the song comes together at the end and is another strong showing for the boy.

“Heartache on the Radio” is probably the poppiest track on the bundle. I also think it’s the most lackluster of all seven songs released by the boys so far. The lyrics are a little self conscious and contrived in their irony. The production is also a little muddier than the other songs (maybe to truly capture that 70s sound?) which doesn’t really suit the band’s individual voices. But still a good song and if this is the worst the Basement Birds can do then I’m more than a little excited to see how they’re going to round out the third bundle.

All in all another strong showing from the Basement Birds. Not nearly as catchy as the first bundle but still very solid. Can’t wait to see what comes next!

Review: Basement Birds, Bundle One


Image Courtesy of iTunes

When I first heard that Kevin Mitchell (Bob Evans, Jebediah), Josh Pyke, Kav Temperley (Eskimo Joe) and Steve Parkin would be collaborating for their Basement Birds project I got pretty excited. I’d been a huge fan of both Josh Pyke and Kevin Mitchell’s folk-infused solo work for some time and it seemed likely that the supergroup would exhibit many of the same influences.

When the first single, “Waiting For You”, was released it looked as though my excitement was well founded. The song was catchy, poppy and had a great folky undertone – just what I had expected.

Then last week the group released the first bundle of tracks from their upcoming album. The bundle consisted of 3 songs from the group (“Skin of the Sky”, “Reasons” and “Bus Stop”), each a little gem in it’s own right.

“Skin of the Sky” opens with a catchy line whistled over a strummed guitar. Each of the boys’ unique voices are featured on the track and the harmonies are perfectly pitched throughout. This is probably the most radio friendly of the 3 songs in the bundle so don’t be surprised to hear it on the airwaves soon if it isn’t there already.

With “Reasons” I was intially a little worried that Kav Temperley’s rock voice wouldn’t transfer to the folk genre as well as those of his band mates. But while the Eskimo Joe lead singer’s unique warble is ever present on this track it fits nicely with the overall tone. It’s obvious “Reasons” was born out of late night acoustic jam sessions and there’s definitely a sense of fun here.

“Bus Stop” is by far my favourite song of the bundle. Featuring the pixie-voiced backing vocals of Julia Stone “Bus Stop” is pure folk-pop goodness. Josh Pyke and Kevin Mitchell (I’m never sure whether I’m meant to call him Bob Evans when he’s not singing with Jebediah) duel perfectly with Stone as they tell the tale of a girl who won’t return their calls (the apparent reason is that she’s “never been too good with numbers”). Of all three tracks this is the one I repeated several times upon first listen and the one I have played to my friends.

Overall a very promising opening play from the Basement Birds. Each of their future bundles will be taken from different recording sessions so may well have completely different sounds to this one, but we can expect solid work from the boys here on in.

And before you go and download the tracks check out this “guerilla gig” the boys did for Channel [V] in Bondi Junction over the weekend:

Review: Rabbit Song – Boy & Bear

Boy & Bear have gone from strength to strength over the past 6 months or so, beginning with their appearance at last year’s Homebake and culminating with their support slot on Laura Marling’s UK tour earlier this year. Somehow in the middle of all of that they’ve found time to record and release a new single.

Rabbit Song is exactly what audiences have come to expect from the band: melodic folky melodies, beautiful harmonies, looping vocal and instrumental parts and a driving rhythm section. the song is reminiscent of bands like the Fleet Foxes or Midlake but has a particular style all of its own.

Dave Hosking’s distinctive voice is at times haunting but still manages to convey the beauty of the band’s lyrics. Boy & Bear’s trademarked vocal accompaniments (in this case “woos”) sit really naturally with the mix of electric and acoustic instruments. The song builds throughout culminating in a crescendo of guitars, keys vocals and drums.

It is in fact the drums that really complete the Boy & Bear sound. Tim Hart’s perfectly pitched pulsing rhythm turns the ethereal sound of the melodies into something you want to dance to without ever overpowering the mix. Add to that the sound of musicians who obviously really enjoy what they’re doing and suddenly you’ve got the kind of track that has indie and folk lovers salivating.

I’m really excited to see where Boy & Bear go with their sound in their upcoming EP release but if Rabbit Song is anything to go by it’s likely to be one of the most exciting releases of the year.

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