Archive for the ‘Pop’ Category

Noah and the Whale - Crisis Hidden Gig, 24 June 2009

June 29th, 2009

Noah and the Whale - First Days Of Spring Album CoverThe gig included Jay Jay Pistolet, Wave Machines, and Noah and the Whale (Natw), all playing for a hidden gig at the Freedm Studio (at Camden’s Roundhouse) for the Crisis homeless charity. The studio itself is a small space, perfect for an intimate show. I much preferred hearing Jay Jay Pistolet and NatW in this intimate setting, than the massive Shepherds Bush Empire, filled with screaming/shouting fans.

The last time I saw Noah and the Whale, I wished I’d heard them with Laura Marling still in the line up, but now I realize that her departure has allowed them to evolve away from their first album, into something other than folk. Now I hear twangs of The Cure, Sigur Ros and even Mazzy Star interwoven into NatW’s melancholic melodies and riffs. Since their last London show, I could hear that they’ve now worn in their new tracks, which sound alot more settled and organic than before.

I would offer more of their new stuff, but as I’d prefer you all to go see them and buy their new album in August, I’ll give you a single taster:


ps - you can download the title track off their new album (FOR FREE!!) off their website (, so do yourself a favour and go have a listen!

The Whitest Boy Alive - Scala, 16 April 2009

May 22nd, 2009

photo by graham Racher - contrast from the Sisters of Mercy show, this gig was filled with the short-haired brigade - not a single mullet or teased up coiffeur in sight. I wasn’t expecting it to be that popular, and almost didn’t go myself, but the gig turned out to be sold out.

The Whitest Boy Alive came out at 9:15pm and lived up to their name, the drummer with his moustache and pineapple shaker, the lead singer in big school teacher glasses, and the bass player in tight white pants. If nerds wrote catchy rock / pop, this what be it. Like The New Wine before them, they’d done away with the lead guitar, opting for rhythm guitar, leaving the riffs and lead melody to a capable keyboard. Interestingly, they also all switched instruments at one point, in mid song, which was quite impressive.

I’ve always considered The Whitest Boy Alive to be alittle bit Royksopp, and alittle bit early The Cure, while they were still punk-pop (Three Imaginary Boys sorta era), but in performance they seemed more upbeat and electronic than I expected. They slowly wound up the audience into a bouncing frenzy, at one point even doing a parody of a parody - The Prodigy’s ‘Out of Space’.

Overall it was an unassuming, and energized set, with the band interacting with the crowd more and more. In their final encore the lead singer even did a full lap off the room and moshed on the dance floor, after being sung back onto stage by the audience.

heres a sample from the night:


Photo by Graham Racher:

The New Wine - Scala, 16 April, 2009

May 21st, 2009

I should have expected these guys to be good after the lead singer of The Whitest Boy Alive introduced them. Regardless, they started playing, and it was instantly clear that while they had there own style, they were quite similar to The Whitest Boy Alive’s sound. For such a young band, they played really well together, and are talented players, especially their keyboard player who wasn’t afraid to rock out the riffs (instead of the usual pad-playing keys man).

Their enthusiasm and music was strong enough that the audience were cheering and dancing, which is a response I haven’t seen much of from an opening act. Their demo was £3 well spent - I’m not sure if these guys are signed yet, but if they continue with their current form, it shouldnt be long before they are. They have a bright future ahead of them. If you get a chance, go see The New Wine and make up your mind for yourself!

Tori Amos - Savoy Theatre, 11 May, 2009

May 13th, 2009

Tori AmosTori once said ‘I may not always be caramel, but I hope I’m like a red wine that gets better with age’… And Monday nights performance certainly rang true to this. I was abit anxious about spending almost £100 on 2 tickets, even though I was one of the lucky ones to get some after her postponement… You see, I was half expecting a full preview of all her new album, but I still couldnt resist the idea of seeing Tori in an acoustic setting - something I haven’t experienced since my first (amazing) Tori gig in 1995.

From the first notes of her first song, my conscience was vindicated - as soon as I realized she was starting into a rarely performed cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’, I was totally gobsmacked, in thrown into awe. This was quickly followed by a few new tracks from her to-be-released album Abnormally Addicted To Sin. In all, she played 5 new tracks, despite having said that most of the new album wouldn’t translate acoustically.

The red-haired Diva, like the fine wine she is, then powered through a swathe of known material, showing the depth of her back catalogue, without (suprisingly) even playing anything from ‘Under The Pink’. ‘Cool On Your Island’ made an appearance, though - which I suppose shouldnt be such a suprise considering its recent renaissance in her setlists - but still greatly appreciated.

Anyone who’s seen Tori live is well aware of her different voices, from furious devil woman to pure angel and back again. This was no more apparent than in ‘Welcome to England’, which, compared to its official recording, sounded alot more emotive - sweet and pure verses, and darker choruses.

Between Tori and Scott Matthews opening, this was definately a memorable night, and potentially the best gig of the year for me. Of course, its easy as a typically dedicated Tori fan to say that she was amazing, but she was in exceptionally fine form. If you get a chance to see her when she tours again with her band, do it!

heres a few samplers:
Tori_Amos-Mary_Jane.mp3 (link fixed…)

EDIT: Due to lots of requests, heres the acoustic ‘Welcome To England’ :

Eskimo Joe - Koko, 8 April, 2009

May 8th, 2009

photo by Kikishua - recent years, Eskimo Joehas been one of those bands that has successfully crossed from alternative to pop. Initially Eskimo Joe got alot of airplay on Triple J radio in Australia (the countries leading alternative radio station), but its with their last triple platinum album, ‘Black Fingernails, Red Wine’, they found their pop songwriting chops, and commercial success.

Evidently, their success wasnt just based on their album - their live show was energetic, well executed, while their new material was catchy and well rehearsed. Their ability didnt just end with their instruments - all but the drummer swapped between each instrument at least once; I’ve noticed its a prerequisite of success to be multi-instrumentalists these days…

Overall, it was quite an impressive show, and their new songs off the soon-to-be-released album ‘Inshallah’ sounded like good progress, and will sell as strongly as the last. Not bad for a bunch of boys from Freo!

Heres a few samples of old and new songs:

photo by Kikishua -

Ben Lee - Indig02, 25 March 2009

April 7th, 2009

My girlfriend is a huge fan of Ben Lee’s album ‘Awake is the New Asleep‘, which is not suprising, as it was a bit of a bolt out of the blue when it was first released, even earning Ben Lee an ARIA award for Best Male Artist and Best Independent Release in 2005. (interestingly, the same year Missy Higgins won Best Female Artist - a much needed acknowledgement to young australian songwriters, rather than the usual schmaltz that wins such awards)

After managing to acquire free tickets (thanks O2 :) to see his only london show, an exclusive private show at Indigo2, I took my gf through the O2 metal detectors and pat down, and into the club. The first openers The Parlotones put on an energetic set of tight panted rock, and the second openers, The Ruby Suns, put on an interesting set of, from what I could tell, carribean-progressive-electro.

Ben Lee came on in a typically playful mood, joking around not just between songs, but also during them, adding verses, and silly solo sections. While he comes off as cocky to some (even covering the hate-song ‘Ben Lee’, by The Atari’s), I feel he doesnt take himself to seriously and just enjoys writing bouncy pop songs. Overall I enjoyed it, and my gf was over the moon when he played the big numbers from her favorite album.

so without further-a-do, heres a few tracks:
Ben Lee - Into The Dark.mp3
Ben Lee - Surrender.mp3
Ben Lee - Catch My Disease.mp3
Ben Lee - We’re All In This Together.mp3

Alex Lloyd - Troubadour, 24 March 2009

April 6th, 2009

Those of you who know Alex Lloyd are familiar with his overwhelming popularity in australia, and the recording industry poster boy image that went with it. He originally arrived on the scene as a young but talented songwriter with his unassuming debut album, ‘Black The Sun‘. With it, and the few albums after it, he cemented his place in Australian pop culture.

10 years later, things have significantly changed for Alex Lloyd - he’s married, had a kid, and like many artists are doing these days, he’s moved on from his Major (EMI). Thankfully the change appears to have brought with it freedom and a fresh perspective, in the form of his new album ‘Good In The Face Of A Stranger‘.

Alex played 3 shows at a small club in london, obviously as a warmup for the Australian tour he’s about to start. 3 of my friends and 50 or so other fans crammed into the Troubadour venue in Earls Court, and watched the 2 openers, Cosmo Jarvis, and Natalie Nahai, who were both worth listening to. Eventually, Alex came out on stage quietly, and began his acoustic set, consisting on roughly equal parts new and old songs. While he seemed to enjoy the anonymity of playing a small venue in a foreign country, but he became aware most of the audience were aussie fans. He mindfully left ‘Amazing‘ off the list (possibly due to the surrounding copyright furor), disregarding the occasional request for it, and played whatever came to mind.

Having not seen him live before, I wasn’t sure what to expect, especially considering the past commercial sell from his old recording company. I’m happy to say I was pleasantly suprised with his quiet musicality and simple delivery of his beautiful songs. I have a feeling he’s touring with band in australia, but I still recommend you go see him if you get the choice, as it may be a while between drinks after this tour.

heres a coupla tracks from the night:
Alex Lloyd - What We Started.mp3
Alex Lloyd - Beautiful.mp3

Noah and the Whale - Shepherds Bush Empire, 6 March, 2009

March 8th, 2009

Noah and the WhaleThis particular friday night I had a choice between 2 bands - one a new favourite (Noah and the Whale) and one an old favourite (My Drug Hell). As the title suggests, for better or worse I did actually manage to make my mind up 2 days before the event. It only took me 3 months - and there was reason for that too. You see, NATW (Noah and the Whale) recently released a pretty impressive debut album, but the exit of the amazing Laura Marling, and their growing cult status (especially with the younger generation) made me double take on whether they’d be worth seeing live. When compared with the dreamy (but less known) power pop of My Drug Hell, it was a tough decision.

This is not to say that I devalue My Drug Hell in anyway, their music will always have a certain charm to me, and I still wish to see them live (its just a pity they dont get out that much). If you dont know who they are, go check them out. They’ll grow on you.

Anyway. Having taken my seat, I was handed a programme. Odd, I thought, but none-the-less read it to discover this was going to be an interesting tableaux of Music and Short Films, presented by Future Shorts called ‘Club Silencio’, in homage to David Lynch, and the parody didnt end there - the presenter, was named Red Velvet (rather than blue), a phone kept ringing, conversations got weirder, and juxtaposition of shots just got more and more Lynch-ian. I enjoyed the shorts, and liked the idea, tho many people standing below got more and more impatient as the show progressed.

Finally, NATW made their way out, seamlessly segueing in from a backing video playing behind them, which was quite clever. It was clear quite quickly that these guys were quite dynamic and love their music, which was like chalk and cheese compared to the last show I saw (Ray Lamontagne) which left me wanting. I know these guys are often referred to as Twee pop (probably because of their quite saccharin pop tunes, and young audience - tho I prefer the term anti-folk), but they really played hard. This became more apparent as they played what must have been the majority of the new album. From my vantage point the audience seemed abit confused about the new music, and cheered loudly when something they new started. This was not suprising, as the new material was quite a departure from the old - the old was at times cynical and melancholic, the new was quite dark and tormented, and definately a break up album. This is not a bad thing at all, as it clearly shows off new depths of their songwriting capabilities, but it will be interesting to see how it goes down with the fans wanting something more bouncy.

From the sound engineer in me, I enjoyed the violin sound very much, it was warm and fitted perfectly with the other instruments - completely unlike the strangled cat that often appears when a violin takes the stage in a band. Each instrument was both well defined and contributed well to the overall sound. They’ve obviously got a good soundie!

I’m looking forward to their new album, and seeing them again in June! Heres a few tracks to whet your whistle:

Noah and the Whale - Blue Skies are Calling.mp3

Noah and the Whale - Mary.mp3

Noah and the Whale - Hold My Hand As Im Lowered.mp3

Noah and the Whale - First Day of Spring.mp3

EDIT: If you’d like to see some video from the night, try Winstons Zen blog entry.

Sia - Shepherds Bush Empire, 9 October, 2008

October 13th, 2008

Sia, Shepherds Bush Empire, 9 October, 2008

I have a pre concert habit of listening to the artists latest album - sort of like a warmup, to get my ears back into the music prior to the show. This time around, I found myself struggling to get interested, and began wondering if I was actually going to enjoy the concert.

As the show started, apprehension gave way to suprise as I realized was was at least in for an interesting night - The lights went down, and Sia and band all walked on stage wearing black clothes and masks covered in multi-coloured flourescent paint, making each of them look like giant hand drawn stick figures, which looked quite spectacular as they moved around stage in the dark. And then Sia opened her mouth… and all concern floated away with her beautiful singing, as I remembered the reason I wanted to see her in concert.

You see, I initially fell in love with Sia’s music through live recordings. She always sounded so vivacious, and organic with her music and singing, and her songs virtually sang themselves they were so catchy. But this is where it also ends - while her studio albums are great, and are indeed one representation of her music, they fall short in my eyes. I’m not saying its the music thats the issue here - what I really mean to say is: some artists are worth seeing live more than heard on a record. Call them true musicians, or whatever you like, these artists transcend their recordings when seen live - Heck, anyone can sound good in a studio - but live? now thats the truth of an artists music and vision laid bare.

Sia is fortunate to be one of the lucky few to rise above. Others I’d include in this small group include Jeff Buckley, Eva Cassidy, Bon Iver, Ani Difranco, The Waifs, John Butler, Missy Higgins, and Paul Kelly. (I’m sure there are also many others that I havent heard about yet) What I’m talking about is live music, performed in such a way that it simply takes you somewhere special - those goosebump kinda performances.

Not satisfied to just perform the audience (who seemed already very much in love with her), Sia had other party tricks to enhance the night - from bribing us by throwing out sweets, to 2 extra large balloons, filled with glitter both of which bounced endlessly up and around the venue. In one of the last tracks of the set, she slipped off her shoes, stepped back from her microphone, and danced around the stage with a total abandonment that we all secretly wish we could also do (if, only in our bedrooms when no ones home). But there she was, centre stage in a major london venue, watched by thousands, but dancing as if no one was watching. Its no wonder that everyone there seemed to be in love with her, as her live show really lived up to her music, and what I’d visualized about it in my head.

So, I must give Sia a hearty thanks for such a lovely show - for showing me that some people are happy being utterly themselves, and are loved for it, and for refreshing my memory about what live music should be like.

here are some tracks from the night:
Sia - Death by Chocolate.mp3
Sia - The Pageant of the Bizarre.mp3
Sia - Soon We’ll be Found.mp3
Sia - Breathe Me.mp3

… and here’s a flickr set by Preamble

Ladyhawke - Scala, 7 October, 2008

October 10th, 2008

photo by Simon Leak -
Ladyhawke are the new retro-electro-80’s-pop (take your pick) sensation of the moment, and having tweaked my interest with their scorchingly good self titled debut album ‘Ladyhawke‘, I went to see them live with a few workmates. Pip walked out on stage a picture of retro, in a Homer Simpson tee 2 sizes too big, and rolled up at the sleeves. As the album is fairly heavy on the electronic side, I was quite suprised when I realized she had a full band with her. (unlike one man band Gotye, who I saw last week)

While the band played well together, the beginning of the set felt like it lacked abit of energy. This probably wasn’t helped by how shy Pip appeared to be, but I’m sure this is something that will improve as Ladyhawke get some touring experience behind them. Of course, after a few songs, they seemed to all warm into it and Pip relaxed abit, giving the crowd good reason to mosh out to a few of their better known tracks.

so! heres a few tracks to have a listen to, and dont forget - if you like it, go buy it, and see them live too! :

Ladyhawke - Dusk Til Dawn.mp3
Ladyhawke - Magic.mp3