Top 50 Albums of 2014, Part Three: 30 – 21

Crossing over the halfway point! Livin’ on some sort of prayer. Parts one and two are to be read/caught up on here and here.

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30. sleepmakeswaves – Love of Cartography
Spotify || Rdio || Bandcamp

The sooner that Australia wakes up and smells the vibrancy of its extensive post-rock community at hand, the bloody better. Sydney’s sleepmakeswaves have become the vanguard act of it in short time, less pushing the envelope and more reading the letter it contained from atop a mountain. With the airtight production guidance of rock expert Nick DiDia, Cartography became a full realisation of everything that the band could be; exploring new depths as well as searing highs – often within the same song. This is the sound of actions speaking far, far louder than words ever could. Consider the game changed.

THREE TOP TRACKS: Great Northern, Something Like Avalanches, Perfect Detonator.

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29. Fucked Up – Glass Boys
Spotify || Rdio

They may be the least hardcore and the least punk band in hardcore punk, but by some bizarre law of double negatives it’s made Toronto sextet Fucked Up far more hardcore and far more punk than a significant amount of their peers. Each of their albums feels momentous, grand in both scope and execution. Glass Boys proves to be no exception, in spite of a leaner runtime – in fact, it allows you to focus further in on the remarkable crafting that goes into each track. An alternate version of the LP with half-speed drums proves to be strangely-alluring additional listening.

THREE TOP TRACKS: Led by Hand, Glass Boys, Sun Glass.

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28. Manchester Orchestra – Cope
Spotify || Rdio || YouTube

Manchester Orchestra have the heart of a lion and their collective eyes on a grander universal bigger picture. It’s now taken them through four albums of life, death, acceptance, honesty, sin and confession; and though one’s take on which is the superior of them may vary from listener to listener, it’s nigh-on impossible to leave a Manchester Orchestra record empty-handed. Although often shrouded in deep-cut metaphor and surrealist lyrical imagery, Cope has its own means of cutting directly to an emotional core at its most crucial points. It’s yet another excellent release from a band that works in mysterious ways.

THREE TOP TRACKS: Girl Harbor, Top Notch, Cope.

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27. Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2
Spotify || Rdio || Download

We’re not in side-project territory anymore, Toto. The once-unlikely pairing of Killer Mike and El-P, now onto their third release together, has begun to make more sense in the greater spectrum of hip-hop perhaps more than practically anything else this decade. Such a bold statement can be backed by noting the remarkable impact of their second album. Swarming, visceral beats, simultaneous lyrical assaults and a completely-unexpected cameo from a fiery Zach de la Rocha all assisted in allowing Run the Jewels to forcefully smash through the underground and lead riots through the city streets. All hell can’t stop them now.


THREE TOP TRACKS: Early, Oh My Darling Don’t Cry, Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck).

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26. Future Islands – Singles
Spotify || Rdio

Some longer-term fans of dramatically-flaired electro-pop explorers Future Islands may feel somewhat disgruntled that it’s taken until their fourth studio album for a wider audience to be paying them the attention that they so rightly deserve. Think of it, instead, as a blessing in disguise: With the world now watching, we see the trio at the very best of their collective abilities; presenting a refined and distinctive take on their genre that revels in its kitsch and unfashionability so much that it comes full circle, leading to the arguably being the coolest damn record of the year. Who’d have thought?

THREE TOP TRACKS: Doves, Seasons (Waiting on You), Sun in the Morning.

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25. James Vincent McMorrow – Post Tropical
Spotify || Rdio || YouTube

For a timid Irish lad, James Vincent McMorrow certainly proved to have balls of steel when he made his launch forth into the great unknown at the start of the year. His second album was described by many as a 180 of sorts, doing away entirely with the folksy instrumentation of its predecessor. Perhaps a more fitting angle, however, would have been a 270. Post Tropical incorporated hindsight in regards to McMorrow’s raw-nerve emotional songwriting and his delicately-placed falsetto, but it also gave view to a brave new world. Who knows who he may yet become? It’s all blissfully uncertain.

THREE TOP TRACKS: All Points, Outside, Digging, Cavalier.

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24. Luca Brasi – By a Thread
Spotify || Rdio || Bandcamp

Two-fifths of Luca Brasi left the fold not a year before the release of their second studio album, a blow which may well have spelled the end for a lesser band. The Tasmanian natives were quick to mend, however – it wasn’t long before their triple-guitar interplay was woven into a tighter twin assault; while replacing the towering Saxon Hall on drums with the impeccably-bicepped Danny Flood was like switching out an unstoppable force for an immovable object. The craftsmanship of the songs, too, proved to be their greatest collective achievement to date. They – and we – live to fight another day.

THREE TOP TRACKS: Western Junction, Borders and Statelines, Here’s Looking at You, Kid Rock.

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23. Kishi Bashi – Lighght
Spotify || Rdio || Bandcamp

Kaoru Ishibashi finds himself in the realm of indie-pop with the violin as his weapon of choice over keyboards or guitar. This left-of-centre take on the genre allows for KB’s amazing technicolour dream-music to roam as freely as it pleases. On Ishibashi’s second LP under the moniker, he layers both his instrument and his voice to the point of assembling a chamber orchestra and a choir respectively. By means of beautifully striking contrast, there are also moments of quiet that reel in focus to the man behind it all. Much like its cover, Lighght is a stunning work of art.

THREE TOP TRACKS: Q & A, Philosophize in It! Chemicalize with It!, Carry On Phenomenon.

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22. Ted Danson with Wolves – WWTDWWD?
Bandcamp

From their culture-jamming band name to their sax-wielding take on DIY math rock, there’s nary a band runnin’ ‘round these parts that’s quite like Sydney’s Ted Danson with Wolves. It may well not have been their intentions when they initially formed out in humble old Tamworth several moons ago, but it’s where they’ve ended up on their outstanding debut effort. Its hyper-literate lyrics delve into the seriously strange and the strangely serious on a tandem basis, shrieked above a mesmerising cacophony of bass rumble, drum splatter and guitar squiggle. The outsiders found a way in, at long last. WWTDWWD? This.

THREE TOP TRACKS: Tim Has a Really Good Idea (Again!), Bohemian (I Don’t) Like You, In the Throes of Golf Woes: “It Was a Coarse Course, of Course.”

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21. The Smith Street Band – Throw Me in the River
Spotify || Rdio || Bandcamp

Wil Wagner has said several times that there have been moments where he’s considered quitting music entirely. Throw Me in the River makes one ever so grateful he made the right call and kept his band alive. Were it to be summed up in three words? Let’s try “location, location, location.” Its songs take place all over the globe, from late nights in Calgary to a boiling day at Meredith Music Festival; not to mention its recording taking place in the small town of Forrest. No matter where you’re from, River shows that it’s where you’re at that’s most important.

THREE TOP TRACKS: Calgary Girls, Surrender, Throw Me in the River.

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The Top 100 Songs of 2014, Part Four: 40 – 21

We’re so close! Parts one, two and three… missed ’em? Not to worry? You can revisit them here, here and here. Let’s get down to some top 40 pop hits. Starting now.

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40. Fucked Up feat. J Mascis – Led By Hand

Here’s a strange proposition: The best Dinosaur Jr. song of the year did have J Mascis in it, but it wasn’t by Dinosaur Jr. In a standout moment from their exceptional Glass Boys LP, Pink Eyes and co. paid homage to proto-grunge wigouts while still maintaining their hardcore punk roots. There was perhaps no greater yin-and-yang in the year than when Mascis mumbled the song’s chorus as Pink Eyes let out a Roger Daltrey-worthy “YEAH!” atop of it. An unlikely pairing on paper, “Led by Hand” had everything making a whole lotta sense quite quickly. Follow it around.

39. St. Vincent – Digital Witness

What did Annie Clark learn from her time making music with David Byrne? Two major things. The first: Horns. They’re a weapon. Use them wisely. The second: Is something categorically weird in your song? Make it weirder. Taking this on board, “Digital Witness” is one of her finest tracks to date. Whether it was the spiralling pre-chorus melody, the stinging guitar wail or that all-encompassing hook, it was nigh-on impossible to deny the resonance of this rebirth. During one of the song’s many earworms, Clark boldly states “I want all of your mind.” You got it. Anything else?

38. The Kite String Tangle – Words

We’re still learning a lot about Danny Harley, the prodigious figurehead behind Brisbane bedroom phenomena The Kite String Tangle. Tracks like “Words” allowed us as listeners to edge slightly closer in this regard, and it was something to be extremely thankful for. A restrained exploration of post-dubstep balladry, Harley shrouds himself in light-and-shade contrasts, gently coaxing out confessional lyrics as distant lights flicker and glow on the outskirts. It shouldn’t add up that such depth and maturity has been achieved at such an early stage, but one would suppose The Kite String Tangle has always been against the odds.

37. Jane Tyrrell – The Rush

Lovers can fall hard and fast for one another, but where does one find oneself when fire turns to ice? It’s a complicated subject, and one that Tyrrell details with an outsider’s eye and an insider’s mind. She may have set up two characters in the song, but it’s safe to say that she sees more than just herself within them. Driven masterfully by the unmistakable drumming of PVT’s Laurence Pike, there are soaring highs and crushing lows that weave through the song’s relatively-short runtime. Tyrrell sees us through to the bitter end. It’s not like it’s her first time.

36. Ken Stringfellow – Kids Don’t Follow

If any song is stretching the friendship for its inclusion in a 2014 list, it’s surely this: A cover of a Replacements song from the 80s that was recorded in 2004 for a tribute album to the aforementioned college-rock legends that ultimately never came to be. This hazy barroom take on the anti-authoritative punk number came from acclaimed Posies and R.E.M. alum Ken Stringfellow; and collected dust until the release of a rarities compilation at the beginning of 2014. So, here we are. You best believe this sucker was worth uncovering. A smart, somewhat-sombre reworking from a truly underrated craftsman.

35. Babaganouj – Too Late for Love

Go Violets didn’t fade away, they burnt out. Their embers remain flickering within Brisbane’s still-thriving indie-pop village, as two of its members have resumed full-time positions in this little jangly garage outfit that could. “Too Late for Love” may have been born in the sunshine state, but it’s more European in flavour – there’s a strong dose of Camera Obscura, a hint of The Wannadies and sprinklings of Belle and Sebastian’s early work. None of this is said to deride the song, of course. It’s a reflection on how it immediately feels like home. May this band burn longer and brighter.

34. Kelis – Breakfast

Her milkshake brought all the boys to the yard, but what happens when one of those boys sticks around? Now in her thirties, Kelis is exploring the concept of finding love in wake of divorce. It’s quite an adult prospect, recurring on perhaps her most mature LP to date, Food. Many went with a helping of “Jerk Ribs” when asked to name the album’s standout, but it would be foolhardy to dismiss this triumphantly horn-laden take on neo-soul, complete with stunning chorus and adorable children’s backing vocals. Much like in life, “Breakfast” is the most important meal of the day.

33. Ben Howard – Conrad

A lot of pitch-black darkness took up Ben Howard’s second album – hell, it even took up most of the cover art. Positioned towards its latter half, “Conrad” allowed the LP to let a glimmer of light into the spectrum. It continues to look at where a past love went awry; and yet the song plays to the pop sensibilities that rewarded Howard such attention to begin with. Its shipmates are his exceptional guitar work, layered to the point of being a battalion front; as well as a hummed refrain that would even garner due respect from the Crash Test Dummies.

32. Luca Brasi – Borders and Statelines

Luca Brasi’s dues have been paid in full and with interest; and many within Australia’s punk community have spent the last few years in particular wondering as to when it would be their time. It was answered not with words, but an extremely loud action. The forceful, crashing drums, the stellar twin-guitar attack and the rousing, spirited chorus they always had in them… “Borders and Statelines,” contrary to its lyrics, will come to define this band in the very best way imaginable. There is a wolf in the throne room, and its name is Luca Brasi. There will be blood.

31. Swans – Oxygen

2014 saw Michael Gira turn 60 years old. He continues to haunt the realm of alternative/avant-garde music after thirty-plus years in the game with unfinished business. Amid an exhausting two-hour-plus release – the double-LP To Be Kind – came this truly terrifying beast. “Oxygen,” already a live favourite, can now officially stand as one of the biggest, boldest compositions to ever come out under the Swans moniker upon its long-awaited recording. Its opening moments are spent picking out one of the year’s most distinctive basslines; its dying moments forcefully hurls everything it has built up into the inferno. The in-between is unforgettable.

30. Death From Above 1979 – Right On, Frankenstein!

Yes, the most hyped new rock band of the year may well have been a bass-and-drums duo; but a vengeful return from the very band that made it cool in the first place made sure we all knew whose yard we were stepping into. “Frankenstein” fires off on all cylinders from its opening seconds, pounding through a barnstorming, breakneck dose of rock & roll that exists purely on Keeler and Grainger’s terms. Plus, it’s gotta be the best false ending to a song from this year: The dust settles, the bass rings out… then, POW! Right in the kisser!

29. Bertie Blackman – Run for Your Life

Another new Bertie Blackman album means another new Bertie Blackman. From the days of her favourite jeans to her flirtations with electronica on later releases, the chameleonic Blackman has rarely allowed herself to get too comfortable within a particular style in her decade-and-change of songwriting. “Run for Your Life” is no exception to this, although it would be wise to suggest she spend a little more time in this specific corner. She sounds right at home with the gated snare, thickly-layered synthesizers and the whoah-oh’d call and response. She may well have just stumbled across her own pop paradise.

28. Kiesza – Hideaway

Fred Armisen may have sung that the dream of the 90s was alive in Portland, but his radar was a little off. The dream of the 90s, friends, is alive in Kiesza, a twenty-something Canadian up-and-comer who dominated dancefloors throughout the entire year with this certified banger in her arsenal. From a crafting perspective, “Hideaway” is retro in the sense that it can appreciate that there was a “What is Love” and a “Rhythm of the Night” for every “Teen Spirit” and “Black Hole Sun.” Its spirit is alive and shuffling once again. Mash it.

27. Coldplay – Magic

In the year that the phrase “consciously uncoupling” entered the cultural lexicon, you could well have been forgiven for forgetting that Chris Martin actually made music this year. Sure, some people would like to forget it altogether, but that’s another story for another time. We’re here to talk about “Magic,” a single that allowed Martin and co. to recall the pop simplicity of their early days while connecting it to the fresh pain of a then-recent separation. If “Magic” proves anything, it’s that we can begin again. That, and Chris Martin can still write a bloody tune.

26. Tkay Maidza – U-Huh

Don’t let Tkay Maidza’s age fool you, nor the simplicity of her big-business single. MCs twice her age would kill for a flow so tightly syncopated, hooks this high in both quality and quantity and a beat as bright and boisterous as the one that fills the spaces of “U-Huh.” There are constant surprises around every corner in the current Australian musical climate; and Maidza is the latest to make a substantial impact. One hopes the fire spat here leads to a phenomenal debut LP next year. After all, as she puts it, “We don’t tolerate broke behaviour.”

25. Yoke – Jabiluka

A phrase as simple as “I never told her” is what centres itself thematically at the core of “Jabiluka,” so named after a mine in the Northern Territory of Australia. Each time it is uttered, there are further layers peeled back to reveal the pain, the regret and the loss that comes with delivering such a line. It’s conveyed emphatically, almost taking on new meaning with every repetition. Similarly, the song itself may externally feel like a Dev Hynes-flavoured slice of downtempo indie-pop, but further listening will see those very same layers revealing. A smart yet complicated song.

24. DZ Deathrays – Reflective Skull

Who gives a fuck about how many notes you can play? If you can play the right ones, in the right succession, you needn’t worry about a single thing more. The riff that “Reflective Skull” lives and dies by was not designed for any greater intellectual pursuit. It’s a primitive headbanger, locked into an undeniable stomping groove and launched forth with reckless abandon. Ironically enough, with its less-than-more approach, this could be one of the biggest sounding tracks that the Deathrays duo have ever put their collective name to. Altogether, now: DUN, DUN-DUN, DUN DUN DUN-DUN, DEWWWW DEWWWW DEWWWW.

23. Sia – Chandelier

Ten years removed from her previous signature song, the inimitable “Breath Me,” Sia Furler has penned herself a new standard; an anthem which will forever define her as one of not only Australia’s greatest singer-songwriter exports, but as a true mastermind behind pop music in the 21st century. Hyperbole? For Christ’s sake, go listen to that chorus again. Seriously. It feels like that Maxell ad campaign where the guy is being blown away by the sound in his chair. Maddie Ziegler may have given the song a second life, but it was all a part of Sia’s grander plan.

22. The Gaslight Anthem – Get Hurt

Don’t call it a comeback. Don’t even call it a reinvention. What we are seeing here is Brian Fallon and co. going out on a proverbial limb, gazing forlornly at what lies beyond. In leaving their comfort zone and exploring the possibilities of slower, more refined songwriting, Gaslight have undertaken a greater journey all with a single step. The title track from their latest record also served as one of their most striking, honest songs ever put to wax. It’s murmurs and whispers from a band defined by their shouts and screams, and it makes for a remarkable listening experience.

21. Tiny Ruins – Me at the Museum, You in the Wintergardens

The single greatest ode to love in 2014 came from the humble, warm abode of Auckland; where you’ll find the quaint, gorgeously understated sounds of one Hollie Fullbrook on the wind. The story is simply told, beautifully painted and pristinely arranged, as we follow the scent of young love through two uniquely different workplaces that somehow not only complement on another, but serve as a reflection on the resolute power that can come through finding love. Its greatest achievement, however, is its ability to accomplish all of this majesty in a decidedly slim 155 seconds. It just comes and goes.

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20 – 1

Top 50 Albums of 2014, Part Two: 40 – 31

He’s at it again! Part one is here ICYMI.

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40. Modern Baseball – You’re Gonna Miss It All
Spotify || Rdio || Bandcamp

There’s an endless stream of great lyrics that flow through Modern Baseball’s second album, but perhaps its most telling moments come through its asides, its mumbles and awkward fumbles. “Yeah… about that…” comes with awkward pauses on ‘Fine, Great,’ while the line “I could not muster the courage to say a single word” practically falls over itself in ‘Apartment.’ It’s an awkward and uncomfortable record, but in a way it has to be in order to convey the dissatisfaction and blank, distant gazes that come with such sighing honesty among its smart pop-punk and understated alt-rock. Whatever forever.

THREE TOP TRACKS: Two Good Things, Notes, Your Graduation.

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39. DZ Deathrays – Black Rat
Spotify || Rdio

With the wizardry of Gerling alum Burke Reid guiding them, Brisbane’s finest party-starters maintained the rage on their all-important second album. It’s worth pointing out that there was far more to the album than what was presented on surface value: While DZ kicked their boots into several slices of snarling garage rock, they also found themselves slowing to a crawl and exploring the possibilities of more than one guitar – let’s try a half-dozen. Why not? Black Rat is the sound of a band expanding their empire, refusing to be either restricted or defined by what’s previously been laid out.

THREE TOP TRACKS: Northern Lights, Reflective Skull, Gina Works at Hearts.

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38. Jane Tyrrell – Echoes in the Aviary
Spotify || Rdio

A supporting player that has had people begging for a lead, Jane Tyrrell is regarded as one of the finest vocalists to emerge out of Australia’s hip-hop community. Here, she takes those lessons learned and breathes fresh life into them. Assisted by a stellar team of producers and multi-instrumentalists, Tyrrell revels in deep, dark secrets; conveyed with the kind of sorrow that can only come from raw-nerve connections to every last lyric. At once breathily intimate and unreachably distant, Echoes is the sound of an artist taking flight for the very first – and certainly not the last – time.

THREE TOP TRACKS: The Rush, Echoes in the Aviary, Raven.

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37. Mere Women – Your Town
Spotify || Rdio || Bandcamp

The bloodline of Mere Women runs through DIY punk, indie rock, basement electronica and warehouse post-punk. It fits in everywhere and nowhere at the exact same time; such is the nature of its genre traversing and integral versatility. Truth be told, there’s very few bands that quite match what it is that Mere Women do, and that’s never been more the case than on Your Town. Each note feels cacophonous, cold to the touch and bristling with anxiety and defeat. It all falls into place, painstakingly detailing what happens when things between people disintegrate into nothing at all. Truly jawdropping.

THREE TOP TRACKS: Our Street, Golden, Home.

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36. Outright – Avalanche
Bandcamp

There is no band in Australian hardcore right now more important than Outright. There is no band in Australian hardcore right now that will sit you down, shut you up and give you the severe reality check that you need the way Outright will. No album in Australian music this year was able to encapsulate such fury and such authoritative defiance like Avalanche did – and in such a short amount of time. How much more evidence do you need in order to see Avalanche as a milestone for its scene and its genre? Do we have everybody’s attention now?

THREE TOP TRACKS: A City Silent, Troubled, With Your Blessing.

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35. Megan Washington – There There
Spotify || Rdio

What kind of year has it been for Megan Washington? It’s all out in the open now. Everything. She’s publicly confessed to having a stutter, told all about a failed relationship that even had a wedding on the cards… hell, she’s even performing under her full name now. The details are not spared on There There, and its seemingly-cathartic release benefits both her and those that have always perceived her to be an excellent and important songwriter. This is Washington’s single best collection of songs, and those that investigate its innermost secrets are the ones that will be rewarded greatest.

THREE TOP TRACKS: Limitless, Marry Me, My Heart is a Wheel.

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34. St. Vincent – St. Vincent
Spotify || Rdio

It doesn’t matter if it happened when she dropped her debut, when she teamed with David Byrne or even when she stole the show during SNL: You’ve fallen in love with Annie Clark. As St. Vincent, she has been responsible for some of the most arresting, envelope-pushing art-rock this side of the century. Not only was this reaffirmed on her self-titled LP, it showcased some of the finest examples of it. Whether she’s shredding with the flair of an 80s metal star or tiptoeing around delicate arrangements with the grace of a ballerina, the love affair remains in full swing.

THREE TOP TRACKS: Digital Witness, Bring Me Your Loves, Birth in Reverse.

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33. Tiny Ruins – Brightly Painted One
Spotify || Rdio

Hollie Fullbrook may be a particularly quiet artist, but there’s a certain je ne sais quoi about her that will stun you into silence. She’ll be recalling a specifically-detailed story from her childhood at one point, falling helplessly in love with a nearby worker at another. What ties it all together is both Fullbrook’s knack for stunning melodies and impeccable, tidy arrangements incorporating warm horns, pinches of strings and her exceptional rhythm section. Brightly Painted One deserves to be seen, heard and known.

THREE TOP TRACKS: She’ll Be Coming ‘Round, Me in the Museum, You in the Wintergardens, Ballad of the Hanging Parcel.

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32. Slipknot – .5: The Gray Chapter
Spotify || Rdio || YouTube

It was always going to be driving a hard bargain in order to make people care about Slipknot again. Six years have passed since their previous record, a tragic loss almost ended the band entirely and perhaps their best-known player exited the fold permanently. It’s either on account of this or in reaction to it, but The Gray Chapter is an album that overcomes every obstacle. It’s an album that makes the impossible possible, pounding its fists through the coffin and rising up to complete unfinished business. It’s the sound of a band who won’t go down without a fight.

THREE TOP TRACKS: Custer, Sarcastrophe, The Devil in I.

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31. J Mascis – Tied to a Star
Spotify || Rdio || YouTube

On paper, an acoustically-oriented record from one of the most prominent, inventive electric guitarists of the past 30 years would appear to be fruitless, confusing and counter-productive. One pities the fool, of course, who would ever think to doubt or question the motives of one Joseph Donald Mascis, Jr. Whatever style of music he lends his formidable songwriting abilities to, the Dinosaur Jr. mainstay is sure to make it a worthwhile endeavour. Star marks his strongest solo album, delving into Nick Drake-esque introspect and sweetly-soft falsetto. It betrays what you know him best for, making it all the more fascinating.

THREE TOP TRACKS: Every Morning, Me Again, Wide Awake.

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The Top 100 Songs of 2014, Part Two: 80 – 61

In case you missed out on part one, you can check out the previous 20 songs here. If not, then let’s get right back into it…

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80. Manchester Orchestra – Top Notch

Four albums in and Manchester Orchestra’s Andy Hull is still searching. Not just for himself, or some kind of greater truth; but for what can be found and what can be learned in the ways other people. He remains one of the poignant and powerful voices within contemporary indie rock, and this is cemented with the resolute, belligerent opener to April’s Cope. An occasionally-cacophonous affair, Hull remains centred at its core. “I know there’s no way to fix it” isn’t a line delivered with despair – it’s a line delivered with acceptance. The search continues.

79. sleepmakeswaves – Something Like Avalanches

The last twelve months have seen sleepmakeswaves translate their cult status among fans of local music into something far greater than any of them could have anticipated: top 40 chart positions, ARIA and Triple J award nominations and a reputation as our single greatest post-rock export. At the centre of this has been “Something Like Avalanches,” which lead us into their exceptional Love of Cartography while also serving as quite possibly their single finest moment. Its whisper-to-shout progressions, seemingly-endless array of left-hooks and bursts of energy tidily summarise why we’re dealing with one of Australia’s most important bands right now.

78. Run the Jewels feat. Zach de la Rocha – Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)

A hip-hop behemoth, an effortlessly-cool underground king and one of the true rock revolutionaries of the 90s – what could possibly go wrong? On what was one of the year’s most badass numbers, Mike and Jaime bark with authoritative force over malfunctioning, bass-gurgling beats; dropping references to everything from Al Pacino to The Anarchist Cookbook. This all happens before leading in the former Rage Against the Machine frontman on a verse that is potentially his most vital since The Battle of Los Angeles a whole fifteen years ago. Old dogs, new tricks and a certified banger to show for it.

77. Mere Women – Our Street

The idea of impermanence within the confines of a relationship isn’t something that’s often brought up in songwriting – we’re either at blossoming, tender beginnings or the hateful, bitter end. “Our Street” is a song that looks at that moment where you see the end in sight – the hook of “I’ve walked down this street so many times” is one of both familiarity and frustration through boredom. It’s backed by some of the best guitar sound on any record in 2014; as well as a minimal but noticeable shade of accessibility shining through the band’s art-rock exterior. Misery loves company.

76. The Decemberists – Make You Better

Colin Meloy’s days of drowning children, barrow boys and giant whales are behind him. That’s not to suggest that he’s lost any of his imagination in his hyper-literate songwriting, but more that he’s focused back in on reality. On his band’s first single in four years, he guides his acclaimed wordplay through a romance that seeks co-dependence and relit flames while maintaining an honesty about what it all means. It’s unpretentious in its delivery, and yet it still leaves an impact just as strong as any of their more melodramatic numbers. A great mind of modern music has rebooted.

75. The New Pornographers – Champions of Red Wine

Less than a year after dropping an exceptional solo LP, Neko Case was at it again; this time with the Canadian collective she made her name with all those years ago. Years have passed since the last Pornos offering, and yet it immediately falls back into place; albeit with slightly different surroundings. An earth-orbiting synthesizer leads the fray; which weaves in and out of a washed-out acoustic guitar, a sturdy kick-kick-snare backbeat and some truly beautiful vocal interplay between Case and A.C. Newman over a wordless Irish-folk-flavoured refrain. No time for losers – The New Pornographers are still the champions.

74. Modern Baseball – Two Good Things

Detached, disillusioned, dissatisfied, dissociative… this, people, is how youth of today are feeling. Modern Baseball did a better job than most (if not all) of reflecting this on You’re Gonna Miss It All, providing a song that’s both endlessly quotable (“Mathematically, that can’t be more than one end of a candle/Bottom of the night, can’t find my socks”) and meticulously crafted. As one of the more subdued moments of the album, it recalls The Weakerthans in structure, while also alluding to doo-wop (see the “da-da-da” rounds following the first verse) and late-2000s pop-punk. Here they are now – entertain them.

73. Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties – Divorce and the American South

Last year, Dan Campbell was asking himself “Did I fuck up?” on The Wonder Years’ “Passing Through a Screen Door.” Here, he flat-out confesses “I’m a fuck-up.” Well, sort of: He’s saying it as Aaron West, the titular character of his solo project. West pleads with his estranged wife on an answering machine, revealing more of his inner turmoil than he’d care to do in person. Little else touches Campbell’s solo performance, but they’re justified inclusions – pedal steel adds guiding lights to this sad country song; while a lone trumpet sounds out the finale with a trace of hope.

72. Hilltop Hoods – Cosby Sweater

Without getting into too much detail, it wasn’t a great year for Bill Cosby. His choice of clothing from the 80s, however, was doing just fine. Alluding to a famous photo of Biggie Smalls wearing the titular jumper, the Hoods returned to the limelight with one of their most fun singles yet from a thoroughly-consistent new album (a rarity if said album is your seventh). If the rollicking beat wasn’t enough, the energy and tongue-in-cheek cultural references (Oprah, Pat Benatar, chess legend Bobby Fischer) from MCs Suffa and Pressure ensured that it went over the line. And it’s all good.

71. Taylor Swift – Shake It Off

70. Death From Above 1979 – White is Red

A teenage romance ending in tragedy is as old as the hills – and even they’re sick of hearing “Last Kiss” over and over. It’s an intriguing concept, though, when it comes from a band normally inclined to skip the foreplay – their last album was called You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine, for shit’s sake. “White is Red” recalls love turned sour on a late-night runaway drive going anywhere. It’s sprinkled with clear influence of heartland-rock storytelling, yet delivered in a manner best paralleled with the band’s “Black History Month.” A colourful song that also revels in its darkness.

69. Future Islands – Doves

Releasing the doves has always been a grandiose gesture going well over the borderline of the flat-out ridiculous. This kind of theatricality is brought to mind by the title alone of this cut from Future Islands’ fourth studio album, so imagine what happens when it actually kicks in with its arena-sized snare flams and John Oates synth-chimes. It’s yet another example of the band potentially coming off as too out-there, too cheesy, too goofy… and then just nailing it entirely. A pop smash best served with that slithery dance move Samuel T. Herring does that recalls SNL‘s “sloppy swish” sketch.

68. Royal Blood – Little Monster

The backlash for rock’s next big thing arrived just as quickly as the cover stories and Dave Grohl soundbites proclaiming them to be saviours of the genre. Wherever you ended up on the spectrum, it was hard to ignore a track like “Little Monster” – if for no other reason that it was a loud motherfuckin’ song. A hybrid of QOTSA at their most stoner-metal meeting Muse at their ballsiest, the track simultaneously kicks up dust and kicks out the jams. “You say you got nothing/So come out and get some,” offers bassist/vocalist Mike Kerr. Don’t mind if we do.

67. Slipknot – Custer

Dun-dun-da, dun-dun-da, dun-dun-da-da-da. It might look like a slap-dash use of onomatopoeia, but it served as a dog whistle to metal fans returning to the world of Iowa’s premier nu-metal survivors. Genre politics aside, the fact that the band is still standing at all after all they have been through is a miracle unto itself. To deliver a song like this, however – an all-guns-blazing sensory assault that makes a song like “People = Shit” sound like Jack Johnson – surely cements them as a band that have paid their dues in full and one that deserves far more credit.

66. Collarbones – Turning

It’s always important to note the creativity in each single from Collarbones: What can initially seem like something that’s going to collapse into itself steadily and surely turns itself into a pop-and-locking wonderland. It’s as if they’ve rearranged puzzle pieces where they were clearly not originally intended to go and created a different picture entirely. In this instance, it’s a choppy, jolting slice of electro-pop that’s as much rnb come-ons as it is Macbook-hunched techno. “You make me feel like someone new,” sings out Marcus Whale – and it’s enough to get you excited for who they may be next.

65. Jenny Lewis – Just One of the Guys

We’re past the casual sex and the pained relationships of Jenny Lewis’ days in Rilo Kiley. As she approaches 40, she finds herself considering her own position in relation to her friends, her public perception and the supposed ticking clock following her around. Of course, we all know that Lewis is far more than “just another lady without a baby,” as she puts it; but it’s hearing her come to that conclusion on her own accord that makes this dreamy pop number all the more worthwhile. Now, about that tour with Kristen Stewart and Anne Hathaway as her backing band…

64. Weezer – Back to the Shack

The first words out of Rivers Cuomo’s mouth on Weezer’s first single in four years are “Sorry, guys.” No shit. Who’d have thought the man responsible for Make Believe and Raditude would be rushing to make amends with the die-hards? Perhaps it was their extensive touring of The Blue Album that made him reconsider what makes a great Weezer song, but the mojo is very much swinging in this two-chord rocker. “Maybe I should play the lead guitar,” he considers, “and Pat should play the drums.” They do just that, and we’re rocking out like it’s ’94 all over again.

63. Oslow – Cliffy

Cliff Young – aka Cliffy – was an Australian power-walker who won a marathon with a simple but clearly-effective shuffling method. Whether this was an influence on the third single from Oslow’s exceptional second EP is anyone’s guess, but a) It’s fun to speculate; and b) It’s reflected in the band’s focus on the groove and the spaces that go between each note as opposed to filling every gap. Oslow are clearly winning the race when it comes to the field of forward-thinking indie-rock emerging from Australia, so you’d best catch up – at your own pace, of course.

62. TV on the Radio – Careful You

One of the more understated romantics in alternative music singing in French? That’s how you do it. TV on the Radio have rarely shied away from romance in the past, ranging from the yearning (“Will Do”) to the R-rated (“Wear You Out”). It’s a little more subdued here, with Tunde Adebimpe sending his heart-on-sleeve lyricism into the ether with cooing keys, buzzing bass and some truly old-school drum machine loops. This is how TV on the Radio enters their forties – not with a whimper, nor with a bang, but with a kiss. Stop the world and melt with them.

61. La Dispute – For Mayor in Splitsville

Each room in the house that was conceptually centred around the band’s third album – titled, er, Rooms of the House – allowed vocalist Jordan Dreyer to explore memories, lost lives and a seemingly-forgotten past that’s slowly pieced together. At this point, he’s come across a particularly-ruined space, triggering memories of his childhood, as well as both the proverbial and literal tonne of bricks that came crashing down in the demise of his adult life. It’s clear that when he screams “I guess, in the end, we just move furniture around,” he’s not just talking a couch and a chair.

***

60 – 41

The Top 100 Songs of 2014, Part One: 100 – 81

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We’re back once again with a retrospective on the year that was. Here are the 100 songs that made my year – not only the building blocks for my musical experiences, but my personal ones too. It’s been a pretty amazing time to be a music fan, as all of these songs will attest to.

Before you go any further, I compiled a supplementary playlist of 50 songs I really enjoyed in 2014 that just missed out on the top 100. You can stream it over at Spotify by either clicking here or streaming directly below:

Once again, I have to preface that you are completely allowed to not enjoy all of the songs on offer here. Or even any of them, for that matter. I do put it to you, however, that nothing here is “wrong” just because you’re not a fan of it personally or if something you do like doesn’t appear. If you feel so strongly, why not make a list of your own? I double dare you.

It begins…

– David James Young, December 2014

***

100. Corpus – Awash with Monotone

Feeling everything and nothing all at the same time. It’s truly one of the more difficult feelings to describe; leaving Sydney duo Corpus to enter the colour scheme and add a little synaesthesia to the mix of their cathartic, tense blend of third-wave post-hardcore and millennium-turn alt-rock. It projects a sense of distance and immediate proximity; of immeasurable loss and momentous gain. Not telling you all – and yet, in doing so, telling more than one might have ever suspected. “Awash with Monotone” is stuck in a moment – and, thanks to some masterful songcraft, it comes out alive.

99. Childish Gambino – Sober

Donald Glover is gonna just keep on doing Donald Glover. You get the feeling that he was going to be doing that anyway, regardless of whether anyone was listening or not. After ending out 2013 with because the internet, which folks either destroyed or called album of the year, the artist formerly known as Troy dropped both a mixtape and a new EP within immediate succession of one another. This end-of-summer rnb bliss release proved to be the pick of the litter, particularly when the pitch-shifted outro throws a smart, avant-garde curveball. Now we’re so high.

98. The Felice Brothers – Cherry Licorice

“I don’t care if it sounds ridic’lous!” sneers Ian Felice after announcing that the song’s title is all he’s interested in chewing on. Nor should he – as a matter of fact, “Cherry Licorice” could well be one of the most carefree songs of the year. Landing somewhere in the middle between Bob Dylan and Bright Eyes, there’s a simple joy to be had here: With its warm accordion and jangly guitar, the brothers offered up some particularly pleasant confectionery. Bonus points for rhyming ‘ladies and gents’ with ‘excrement,’ while we’re at it.

97. Die! Die! Die! – Get Hit

Two words. Six letters. An endless cycle of repetition. After awhile, “Get Hit” becomes more than a song title and a chorus – it’s a mantra; a cathartic cry out at those that are holding you back or holding you down. It exists on a vicious cycle, and there’s no getting off. Each snare roll sounds like a haymaker to the jaw, while Andrew Wilson laments over the ultra-violence with radiating guitar noise. The Dunedin natives have rarely sounded this dark, this brooding or this flat-out furious on record before. Furthermore, they’ve rarely sounded this good.

96. Chet Faker – Cigarettes and Loneliness

We all know what a love song sounds like. You’ve heard them on the radio, you’ve sung along to them… hell, you might have even written a couple yourself. This, conversely, is what a “love without love” song sounds like. Faker revels in his thinly-veiled non-chalance during the track’s verses before letting a bit of that heartbreak out as the song progresses – a little bit here and there, until he’s basically on his knees and openly mourning his failed, unrequited love without love. “Cigarettes and Loneliness” is the sound of a man falling apart.

95. Jacob feat. Luke Hughes – Floors

Much like Nicholas Cage, “Floors” is gone in 60 seconds. It does a lot more in that time, however, than Cage ever managed with that lousy remake of his. Odes to a life on the road are nothing new (what’s up, Willie Nelson?), but the vantage point of knowing that there’s always a show to be playing somewhere adds hope and a new perspective into the mix. Luke Hughes, frontman for the late, great Thesis, subsequently bowls the track over entirely with a roared refrain that is delivered with both love and hate. That’s touring for you.

94. Pixies – Snakes

If you asked “How many people thought the new Pixies album was terrible?” you’d get a raised hand from more or less everyone in the room. Were you to follow that up with “How many people actually heard the new Pixies album?,” however, the majority of those hands would be gone from the air. Yes, the proto-grunge legends somehow ended up as underdogs in 2014; but amid the backlash came this left-of-centre gem. Boasting some outstanding guitar work from Joey Santiago and some classic Black Francis weirdness, there was more to the Pixies 2.0 than met the eye.

93. Angus & Julia Stone – Heart Beats Slow

In their time away from the shared spotlight, both Angus and Julia released solo albums. While both had their merits, they also proved that there’s something truly special about their work together. The songwriting is stronger, the vocals tessellate brilliantly and the left knows exactly what the right is doing at all times. It’s as if they exist in a hive mind. It would certainly explain how a track like “Heart Beats Slow” comes so naturally to the siblings – with its drawn-out groove and reggae-tinged rhythm, it brought in the gentle breeze of familiarity and sent us sailing once again.

92. Broken Bells – After the Disco

10 years removed from The Grey Album, Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton is still finding new ways to push the proverbial envelope and challenge his listeners in his approach to both songwriting and production. Indeed, “After the Disco” almost sounds like one of his famed mash-ups – a dash of the Shins, a Chic beat, some prog-rock keys and a Queen bass-line. A potential mess, the song instead lets its colours run into something truly beautiful. What was initially thought to be a one-off between Burton and James Mercer back in 2010 has found life again – and what a life.

91. Passenger – Heart’s on Fire

It may be clear to all and sundry that a certain song stands as what pushed humble busker Mike Rosenberg into international superstar Passenger. The cracks certainly began to show, however, with this live favourite – often performed alongside Ed Sheeran and inevitably one of the more tender, beautiful moments of any Passenger set. Its premise is one that’s so simple, it could have come from anywhere – Cut Copy even attempted it several years prior with the apostrophe removed. That is, of course, until Rosenberg begins to sing. It’s clear, then, that it came from the heart. Directly.

90. Angus & Julia Stone – A Heartbreak

The Stones are often classified under the banner of folk rock, but it’s rare that a song of theirs is able to be considered as more of the latter than the former. That’s where “A Heartbreak” emerges, here serving as both the opening number to their self-titled third LP and a potential mission statement. The song is simply resplendent in its aphotic corners, muted guitars and stomping drums. The blunt yet understated lyrical content further indulges the two in their collective darkside – at the very least, they indicate that we’re not on that big jet plane anymore.

89. La Roux – Kiss and Not Tell

Elly Jackson arrived late in the game of the 2000s – figuratively within its final months – but was there just in time to drop in classics of the decade such as “In For the Kill” and “Bulletproof.” There weren’t any new classics to be found on La Roux’s second album, but there didn’t need to be. Honestly, Jackson simply sounded happy to be back making music under the moniker again. Here, she further immerses herself in synth-pop with flourishes of early Depeche Mode, a pinch of ABC and some classic La Roux ambiguity. It feels like home once again.

88. Ed Sheeran – Don’t

The second single from Sheeran’s chart-smashing x (say it “multiply”) raised a lot of questions to a lot of different people. “Is it about Taylor?” openly pondered the screaming teenage girls that make up a fair slice of the pie chart detailing his demographic. “Is it about Ellie?” tweeted the twenty-somethings supposedly above teen fandom and yet unable to help themselves in a little gossip. The most important question came, though, from true pop afficionados: “Exactly what more will it take to prove that this kid isn’t fucking around?” A career-best single from a career that is still yet blooming.

87. Hockey Dad – Beach House

The term “sports-montage rock” is often used as derogatory slang for lifeless, paint-by-numbers music that blends into the background of tackling, goal-scoring and cheering footage. This is only being brought up to preface something that must be said without any intent to insult: “Beach House” needs to be incorporated into a skate video and it needs to be done post-haste. This scorcher is a blend of Vampire Weekend hooks (“Ay! Ay! Ay!”), Wavves guitar tone and bounding, youthful exuberance. Oh, and it would be totes wicked rad if there were some kickflips to go with it.

86. Postblue – Pig

Kids have seemingly always been in bands that ape the musical stylings of a movement they either weren’t alive for or are far too young to remember directly. This, of course, doesn’t mean that those acts should be directly dismissed – it’s not the influences, per se, but what a band does with them. In regards to Melbourne-via-Byron’s Postblue, it means taking the definitive traits of the grunge era – snarling vocals, Big Muff pedal stomps and smart loud-quiet-loud dynamics – and wheezing some fresh air into them. It’s been done, sure, but right now no-one’s doing it better.

85. Latham’s Grip – Anyone Else

Anyone who’s been in a rock band can attest to that unbeatable moment where an instrumental break is being jammed upon, the eyes connect around the room and, without a word being said, it just keeps on going. That’s a huge part of “Anyone Else,” and it makes the song all that much stronger. Where many bands would cut off, Latham’s Grip push until they get through to the other side. It works wonders on what’s already an exceptional cut of garage-dwelling alt-rock. “All I’ve got is who I am,” laments vocalist Jesse Hepplewhite at one point. Sometimes, that’s more than enough.

84. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah feat. Matt Berninger – Coming Down

Where did we lose Alec Ounsworth? The foundations of the little Brooklyn band that could came crumbling sometime after 2007’s Some Loud Thunder, but its leader never gave up hope – even when figuratively the entire band left. The road to redemption begins here, with what is easily the project’s strongest single since “Satan Said Dance.” A buzzing rhythm section matches up with churning post-punk guitar as Ounsworth pours his peculiar brand of paranoia over the top. Later, The National’s Matt Berninger turns up to offer an even gloomier viewpoint; and the class of 2005 lives on somehow.

83. Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars – Uptown Funk

Mark Ronson rocking up all non-chalantly with a single in November is basically like that Bill Murray cameo in Space Jam – you didn’t see it coming and it took most of the run-time to actually happen, but it’s what you’re going to remember it for. Along for the ride is your boy Bruno Mars – once a fedora-tipping lovesick puppy, now a swagged-out smooth operator calling the shots. “Uptown Funk” is Prince, it’s Sly and the Family Stone and it’s James Brown, but there’s something more important about it. It’s the trumpets sounding the return of the king.

82. FKA twigs – Two Weeks

This ain’t no Grizzly Bear cover. This ain’t no disco. This ain’t no fooling around. Over a dizzying, clattered trap beat, twigs approaches her lover in the song’s lyrics with all the subtlety and nuance of a Prince record – the mix makes it feel as though she’s practically singing directly into his ear and we’re eavesdroppers. Who’d have guessed that an ode to stoned, bestial sex would wind up as one of the sexiest-sounding songs of the year? FKA twigs has rightfully emerged atop the throne after some promising leadups to her debut. Your move, motherfuckers.

81. Röyksopp & Robyn – Sayit

Scandinavians having sex with robots? Sure, why not. An adults-only sequel to the pairing’s original collaboration, 2007’s “Girl and the Robot,” things get decidedly hot and heavy this time around – even with a strictly limited amount of words actually being spoken. It’s all in the beat – hammering, propulsive and incessant; mercilessly pounding away on the bass drum to ensure there’s not a single second across the five-minute runtime when you’re not a sweaty, dancing mess. If ever you needed proof that these three are a match made in Heaven, here it is. Let’s get freaky.

***

80 – 61

INTERVIEW: The Gaslight Anthem (USA), August 2012

I picked up a little work over at Pages Digital – specifically, its subset of Groupie Magazine – through an old uni connection. Although there were problems toward the end relating to overdue payments, I still got to pick up some interesting work in newswriting and the occasional feature. I was quite looking forward to this interview, as the band’s Handwritten album had been one of my favourite records of the year. I was, however, planning on speaking with Brian Fallon. When I was told that I’d be speaking to the band’s guitarist, Alex, instead; I couldn’t hide my disappointment. Didn’t help that the guy was honestly a bit of a dick, too. Maybe we caught one another on a bad day, but I’d love a second chance to do a Gaslight feature. Someday…

– DJY, December 2014

***

Take small-town good nature, rock & roll radio and a new generation of twentysomethings trying to make sense of it all. Mix it together and turn the amps up to eleven and you’ll get a rough idea of what New Jersey band The Gaslight Anthem are all about. On their fourth studio album, Handwritten, the band continue to expand on their punk and heartland rock background, creating a definitive effort that cements their status as one of the most important working rock bands in the world today. It’s an album that evokes feelings of hope, love, loss, sorrow, regret and nostalgia; and certainly a record that evokes a strong response from the band’s fanbase.

In a recent interview, the band’s lead singer, Brian Fallon, compared the process of creating an album to a photograph, capturing a period of one’s life with a permanent fixture. However, this may have simply just been a throwaway comment: An attempt to engage the band’s guitarist, Alex Rosamilia, with an elaboration on this metaphor – perhaps as to what kind of photograph Handwritten is – are ultimately futile. “I dunno, man,” he says.” I’m pretty sure what Brian meant by that is that the whole record cycle can be taken as one section and then you move on to the next section. It’s just that whole bit, y’know what I mean? It’s almost like you can break parts of your life off into segments, make new chapters…” He ultimately trails off, perhaps confused by the question.

Although this attempt to pick Rosamilia’s brain proves fruitless, he comes to open up further about his connection to Handwritten as an album as the interview progresses. “I guess the biggest thing that comes to mind about the album is that I’m proud of it,” he comments at one stage, sounding focused and enthused. “I really love this record – I’ve never been happier with anything we’ve ever done before. We were kind of in the right mindset when we went in to make it, and we’re obviously better at our instruments now than when we first started.”

He continues, discussing how naturally the record came together. “Everything was in the right place at the right time – and not to sound pompous, but it all felt really effortless. Not in the sense that it was easy to do, but there was no point where anyone in the band was really fighting against what was happening.” As to what exactly it was that made the band feel so easy-going and confident during what is often a stressful time for bands? “We decided we wanted to have fun with it,” Alex affirms. “Being signed to a major label and all, we really didn’t want to put the excess pressure on ourselves. We just went in and wrote some fast, upbeat songs; and then tried to balance that out with some slower ones. I think writing a lot also helped with our attitude towards what we were doing – it felt great to have too much as opposed to not enough, to narrow it down to the eleven that made it on.”

Handwritten is a remarkable effort, one that’s bound to end up at the pointy end of countless end-of-year lists – and, naturally, the band’s return to Australia couldn’t come sooner. Alex is similarly excited to return, but tells fans not to hold their breath. “We don’t have anything planned yet. I know we’re trying to get down there as soon as possible, so we’re hoping for early next year. Australia is pretty much paradise for a guy like me from New Jersey.”

INTERVIEW: Future of the Left (UK), November 2010

I count this as one of the most difficult interviews I’ve ever had to transcribe. Keep in mind that’s purely on the basis of Falko being one of the funniest people I’ve ever interviewed. The guy is just wildly funny and a true eccentric character. I’ll let him do the talking.

– DJY, October 2014
***

Meet Andrew Falkous. His friends call him Andy, he was born in Newcastle Upon Tyne and he’s the frontman of shouty alternative rockers Future of the Left… but you already knew all of that, didn’t you? How about we get to the things you don’t know about Falkous – for example, he finds his local gym hilarious.

“It makes me laugh that people actually go to the gym to date,” says Falkous in what’s to be one of his many unprovoked, extended and remarkably hilarious tangents during the interview. “I mean, by the end of me being at the gym I’m a bloody mess! I’m pushing myself through all different stage of sweat – in fact, I’m actually inventing new ways to sweat. The thing that always gets me with these big, muscular guys, right – if they’re doing weights so much, how come they need to flex so much when they pick up something really small? I mean, you have to flex that much to pick up that bottle of water in front of that attractive woman? You must be weak!”

Keep in mind that you can get all of that out of Falkous simply by asking “How are you?” He’s a madman with a mile-a-minute creative flow and the kind of energy you’d struggle to get out of a child who’s had red cordial injected into their veins. In fact, the man is so energetic that it’s lead to challenges within the new line-up of the band, which features former Million Dead bassist Julia Ruzicka and guitarist Jimmy Watkins.

“I remember when I first met Julia,” recalls Falkous. “She was playing in a band, and she says to me ‘I bet I sweat on-stage more than you,’ and I say ‘I bet you fucking don’t!’ At the end of the show, she just looked at me and said ‘…yeah, you definitely sweat more than me. You definitely sweat more than any other human being on-stage.’” Must have been true love from there, right? “The truest of love. Like the love based on the physics of a mountain mudslide.”

This mountainous love affair between the newly-expanded quartet will be making their debut appearance in Australia this coming New Year’s Eve for the Pyramid Rock festival, marking almost exactly twelve months between visits for the band; who were last here as a trio with former bassist Kelson Mathias. “I just like coming over in your summer,” reasons Falkous. “I like a bit of heat to escape our miserable fucking weather. That, and Melbourne and Sydney are amongst the best places to play – actually, that’s pretty unfair to Brisbane, which is actually really, really good. But Sydney and Melbourne thus far have been magical.”

Of course, it can’t all be about the music – as Falkous confesses: “I also want to catch a few days of The Ashes. It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was twelve years old – but I never had the money because first I was a child, then I was a student, and then I was a musician. As a musician, you don’t normally get to be blessed with what’s known as disposable income. Even if it’s just for a couple of days at the MCG, I’m really excited about it. I’m sure it’ll be rained out, but I’ll be sitting there and fucking drinking anyway.”

INTERVIEW: Calling All Cars (AUS), November 2011

To paraphrase Max Landis, sometimes it feels like nobody gives a fuck about Calling All Cars, even if they think they do. Hell, I’ve interviewed CAC twice and I’m not entirely sure give a shit about them. Still, they impressed a lot of rock pigs back in the day with some really tight live shows. Nobody bought their second album, but they should have because it was way better than the first one. The third album was… ehh. It was okay. I interviewed Haydn around the time it dropped and he was very despondent – barely got enough for a 900-word feature from him. James is pretty nice and is an okay interview; and as such, this one turned out passable. Who’d have thought an article by my 21-year-old self would trump one by my 23-year-old self?

– DJY, October 2014

***

A drunk guy at the Annandale leaps onto the stage, dancing like a maniac as the band plays on. A lead singer leaps off the stage in Warrnambool with a wireless guitar, heading to the top of the bar as some of the wilder punters figuratively dangle from the rafters. A young band simply grins in the face of an angry young bogan, who’s rocked up early to get a good spot near the front of a soulless stadium to see his dad’s favourite band. These stories might all be somewhat typical rock scenarios, but they are tied together by one band: Melbourne’s Calling All Cars.

Unquestionably one of the hardest-working rock bands this country has to offer, the three-piece spent the first half of the year prepping the release of their second album, Dancing with a Dead Man, hardly a year after the release of their debut Hold, Hold, Fire. The remainder was spent on an exhausting and extensive tour in support of the album.

“We had a lot of fun with those shows,” recalls James Ing, the gentle giant that brings drums and backing vocals to the trio. “It was a really good mix with playing a tonne of the old stuff and mixing it in with the new record. We were a bit worried about doing it half-and-half – we weren’t really sure how the audience would react. It all turned out really well, though. The reception we got was really good!”

Anyone who actively followed the tour’s progression, as documented through their social networking pages, certainly would have made note of the many small towns the band went through on the tour. “I guess we’ve come to expect more of a rowdiness from the more regional places that we play,” Ing says of the remote-and-regional audiences. “It’s kind of like seeing how far away a place is from a capital city or whatever to judge just how crazy the crowd is gonna get! It’s almost always worth getting out there and showing them something special, though,” reasons Ing. “You go through some towns and you can just tell that they don’t get very much when it comes to gigs and music at all.”

James knows all too well what it’s like to live somewhere with no following of live music – before relocating to Melbourne with the rest of the band, Ing lived in Narooma, on the far south coast of New South Wales. “Good beaches, surfing, nice for a holiday… not much else I could say or tell you about it,” says James with a laugh. “When me and Haydn [Ing, the band’s lead singer/guitarist and James’ brother] were growing up, it was music that was only our real form of entertainment, apart from surfing. We didn’t really have any neighbours, either, so we could pretty much play as loud as we wanted to.”

It’s certainly the loudness that first draws your attention to Calling All Cars, until it’s broken down into the sum of its parts: Hayden’s gravelly melodies and churning guitar, the thunder-rumble bass of Adam Montgomery and, of course, James’ relentless pounding that drives the songs. The craftsmanship of the songs is especially of note, too – they’re big songs, sure, but they’re certainly not dumb. The exploration of what they can do with their songwriting is what makes Dancing such a formidable release, and one that has had a great impact on the band and their fan base.

“It’s been very – I dunno, what’s the word?” Ing is attempting to describe the response to Dancing, something he is especially proud of but cannot quite articulate. “Warm? Supportive? Something like that. Everyone has really been backing the record. I think it was really important, as a band, that we turned over something like that really quickly. We’re stoked with how it’s turned out.”

“This album grooves a lot more,” he continues, as discussion turns to the direction the band took from a musical perspective. “The first one was a lot more straightforward, I guess – a lot of it was just building up towards the choruses, with really high tempos. With this one, we wanted to just play it cool and slow it down a little bit. We just wanted a little bit more space – when you’re playing in bigger venues and stuff, you definitely tend to notice that a lot of stuff gets lost in translation; the space between you and the P.A., the space between you and the crowd and stuff like that. We figured that the less notes we were playing, the more time it has to travel those spaces, so I think that’s something we really wanted to work on.”

In the lead-up to the release of the record, the band once again found themselves constantly on the touring circuit. Having opened for everyone from AC/DC to Grinspoon, the band were lucky enough to open for Queens of the Stone Age in February of this year. “All the support slots that we did were definitely an influence on this record,” says James. “Observing different crowds was really interesting. Watching the bands we were supporting every night made a huge impact, too. There’s a reason they’re playing to sell-out crowds and headlining festivals and whatever else. It was really good to sit back and watch how they do things.”

With 2011 nearly over, Ing is asked as to how he hand the rest of the band will be spending their time off after such a full year. “We’ll probably just go back to more writing, I guess,” he responds – almost incredulously, as if he cannot believe the trio will go right back to work. “It’s not like we won’t be enjoying the summer, though – my girlfriend just got me a new bicycle, so I’ll definitely be going to do some riding. I’ll hopefully get into some more graphic design stuff when I get some spare time, too. I’ve done all the graphic design stuff for the band, with the artwork and the logos and stuff like that. I’d love to do some more drawing, sketching… I dunno.”

You can audibly hear James shrug and laugh, in a typical laid-back Aussie fashion. “We’ll just take it all as it comes.”

INTERVIEW: Evanescence (USA), November 2011

Another bizarre encounter with an absolute hero of my early teens. Me and a few friends were nothing short of obsessed with Amy Lee and co., so I simply couldn’t pass up the chance to interview her; despite just turning 21 at the time. Even though Evanescence would later go on to be one of the worst bands I have ever seen, I’m very glad I did this interview. Amy, despite major diva status among most writers, was an absolute sweetheart. As shit as Evanescence became towards the end there, I can’t take that away from her. So, enjoy, I guess? You probably hated Evanescence from day one. Hell, I might not even blame you these days.

– DJY, October 2014

***

If you need any indication of just how fickle the pop industry can be, look no further than the story of Evanescence. Their runaway success in the early 2000s cemented them as one of the biggest rock bands in the world, tallying up over 15 million sales worldwide and two Grammy Awards for their acclaimed 2003 debut, Fallen. A follow-up, 2006’s The Open Door, saw sales halved and the band implode whilst on tour, ultimately leaving Amy Lee as the only original member remaining. Following the end of a huge world tour, the band – and Lee herself – went into hibernation. It seemed as though the band would never resurface – but, as everyone from James Bond to Justin Bieber have warned, never say never.

“I’m glad people have still been interested after all this time,” says Lee, who finally brought back the band with a fresh line-up and a self-titled third album which dropped in October. “At the beginning [of the hiatus], me and the rest of the guys had no plans. It wasn’t the end; we just decided to take a break from it all until one of us had a cool idea. It was just a matter of following the inspiration – I mean, if I didn’t have the drive or the motivation to make another Evanescence record, we wouldn’t be here talking about it.”

In her time away, Lee decided to focus on what had made lose interest in music to begin with, resulting in multiple delays to the release of Evanescence. Thankfully, however, she pulled through, and is particularly enthusiastic about re-igniting the songwriting fire. “There definitely was a period of thinking that maybe the whole thing was done,” admits Lee, “but I can’t help it! I love writing music. I found myself writing all the time, constantly playing. I even started learning the harp, which was really beautiful. Once I started up again, and started writing and playing more and more, I was just like “Wow!” This is a big part of me. I love doing this. I love sharing it, too.”

Lee put together a new line-up with guitarist Terry Balsamo, who took over lead guitar duties upon the departure of founding member Ben Moody back in 2003. Bassist Tim McCord who played on the band’s second album The Open Door returned and fill-in musicians from the tail-end of the last world tour – drummer Will Hunt and guitarist Troy McLawhorn – joined the fold as permanent members. Lee is vocally enthusiastic about the line-up, as she appears to be about practically everything that involves the band.

“It’s a really strong line-up,” she says. “At the end of The Open Door tour, I really felt like we were playing better shows than we had been before. There was a great chemistry on-stage, and we really knew how to play off one-another and work together. We needed a whole new creative environment in order to make this record, and we needed to work more as a team than ever. It felt really good – I was so happy to have so many cool ideas to work with and to pull from. Normally, I just shack up with one guy and we make the record together – the first record was Ben, the second was essentially me and Terry. This time, I had a whole team of brains that just get it. They get what I want to hear, and they play because they love it.”

Evanescence, as a record, is a far more solid affair than the muddled and seemingly misguided sounds of The Open Door. The unity of the band’s sound that Lee enthuses about is unquestionably present and accounted for, from the anthemic lead single What You Want to the bold melodrama of The Other Side. Balsamo’s guitar also provides a darker and often quite heavy dynamic in the midst of the band’s sound, in a way that is unlike anything the band have recorded previously. Amy emphasises, however, that the direction taken on the album was never intentional – or, worse, forced out. “Will is an incredible drummer,” she says, “and working with him was so great because it drove the album from a rhythmic perspective. Terry had awesome ideas, Will had awesome ideas… and Troy was just a complete shredder from the moment we pressed record. None of it was intentional – I just think my band rules!”

With the almost operatic sense of drama and despair found in the music of Evanescence, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Lee is a very self-serious person. She proves to be very much on the contrary of this preconceived notion, however, laughing and giggling her way through her chat with FL and exuding a warmth and friendliness that one certainly wouldn’t expect from someone often seen to be a mall-goth poster child. She also even showed a notably different side recently, when she recorded a cover for a tribute album – not Korn, whom she has performed with on several occasions; nor Bjork, whom Lee cited as one of her biggest influences in the recording of Evanescence. Nope, the artist she covered was that other clear influence on Evanescence: Robin the Frog.

Yes, Amy performed a solo cover of Halfway Down the Stairs, the ballad sung by Kermit’s nephew, for The Green Album. Lee gets particularly excited when the topic of Jim Henson and the Muppets tribute album comes up – “Oh. My. God. Just Jim Henson in general has worked on so many of my favourite things!” she shouts. “I was really big into The Dark Crystal, which was one of those things that I was super-obsessed with as a kid. He’s done so much amazing stuff – so when it came to picking a Muppets song to do for this record, there was really no pressure. I went with the really obscure one because I always loved Robin the Frog. The whole experience was really cool.”

The band is currently planning a large world tour to promote Evanescence, and Lee is happy to let us in on the fact that Australia is definitely on the cards. Despite being a part of the rumour mill for the Soundwave Festival, Amy does not even acknowledge them. “It looks like we’ll be doing our own headlining tour,” she says. “I’m not sure about official dates or whatever, but it will be in the first half of the new year, for sure. We all love Australia so much, and you’ve always been so good to us!”

INTERVIEW: Silversun Pickups (USA), September 2010

When I go back and look at things like this, I find myself increasingly grateful for what I was able to achieve a few years back for a no-name freelancer more or less working for peanuts and some extracurricular uni work. It comes to a head here, where I get to interview the lead singer of one of my all-time favourite bands. I couldn’t begin to tell you what this band means to me, and especially what they meant to me at this point. I think that around this point, I’m starting to find my voice as a features writer, as well. It’s not entirely there yet, but I can really see it in this article. I’ll never not love this band, essentially. This is a good one to revisit.

– DJY, October 2014

***

Call it cabin fever, or ‘brain damage’ from touring as he puts it, but something tells us that Brian Aubert is not quite all there as he calls from his Los Angeles home, barely a week off coming off tour.

“I’m looking at my dog right now – what does it want?” questions the Silversun Pickups frontman. “Food? You wanna eat? Whatcha wanna do? She’s not talking to me – we need some kind of translation device, like the movie Up … although my dog would be all like ‘throw the ball, throw the ball..park! Park! Park! Park! She wouldn’t really be the kind to sit me down and go ‘so, Brian, what do you think of the new Band of Horses record?’”

Okay, so maybe Brian’s losing it just a little, but when you consider the band have been constantly touring for the past year or so on the back of their successful sophomore Swoon, it begins to make a little more sense. The band isn’t particularly sick of the album, either.

“We’re still in somewhat of a love affair with it,” says Aubert when asked to look upon the record in retrospect. “When we hear things like that it’s been out for over a year, it kinda blows our minds. When we’re playing it live, we kinda bounce off a few things, and then you end up bouncing off the things you bounced off a little while ago – it’s important for us to go back to the record and kinda see just how far we strayed.” Aubert also sees Swoon as a very personal album, making the experience all the richer.

“When I listen to Swoon, or even when I’m playing the songs live, I think back to where I was when I was writing it and what was going on. There was a lot going on. The thing is, I don’t feel that way anymore – I understand it, but I can’t quite get to that level of despair. It makes me happy to think that, because it was such a cathartic experience. Because of Swoon, I was able to get through a lot. I’m so happy that I just had something that I could just put things in, and that’s where they lay now.”

Interesting that Aubert – along with bassist Nikki Monniger, Chris Guanlao on drums and keyboardist Joe Lester – now revisits these experiences with countless sold-out audiences across the United States and Europe. Although the touring is considerably more extensive than ever before in the band’s career, Aubert maintains that much less has changed than what one may think. “I feel like this tour essentially picked up where [debut album, 2006’s] Carnavas left off,” he comments.

“That was a big shock for us – we were so excited that Lazy Eye was on the radio, but we just thought it would be ‘that one time’ in our career where we were on the radio. We figured we’d just keep making music, and whoever stuck around, stuck around,” continues Brian. But then we were amazed at how well this record has been doing, and everything just kicked off. The actual touring process, I’ll admit, it’s harder than ever. Although, I think our psyches are more readily prepared for it – personally, anyway; though I’m sure the rest of the band would agree.”

One would hope the group are prepared for their upcoming tour of Australia, opening for the chart-topping aviary Birds of Tokyo on their national tour, as well as stopping at the NSW central coast for the Coaster Festival. Any doubts that the band are ready are swept away the second Aubert is asked if the band are looking forward to the tour: “Oh, GOD, yeah,” he chirps.

“Birds of Tokyo asked us to play, and it’s so nice that they did. The reason we’re there is because they’re bringing us. But yeah, the last club shows that we did you would have had to drag us out of there kicking and screaming. The Annandale in Sydney, the Ding Dong in Melbourne… those were definitely some of our favourite shows of the last world tour. Who knows what’s gonna happen this time around?”