Top 50 Albums of 2014, Part Four: 20 – 11

Quick catch up over this-a-way: Part one, then two, then three.

Let’s finish this!

***

20. Perfect Pussy – Say Yes to Love
Spotify || Rdio


Cut the crap. That’s all Perfect Pussy want. Say Yes to Love cuts deep, fast and often. As far as the grand scheme of guitar-oriented music was concerned, it felt as if it was one of the more dangerous releases to make itself known within the calendar year – it fumed, it radiated and it sent the levels into a constant bubble of blood red. Beneath its thorny exterior, a further layer was revealed – Meredith Graves shrieks and screams out mantras, rhetoric and personal essays that added to her already-stellar reputation as one of contemporary music’s more important voices. It’s love.

THREE TOP TRACKS: Interference Fits, Driver, VII.

WATCH:

19. TV on the Radio – Seeds
Spotify ||Rdio

“This time, I’ve got seeds on ground.” TV on the Radio sewed new life roughly three years removed from throwing dirt on the late, great Gerard Smith. Seeds allowed them to explore a more straightforward, streamlined approach to songwriting; allowing for their open-book honesty to shine through new love, old friends and healing wounds. It also allowed the band to let itself exist as an entity far greater than the sum of its parts – a chance to completely realise what they have created, what they have so wisely kept alive. Seeds is life after death – it’s not easy, but achievable.

THREE TOP TRACKS: Lazzeray, Careful You, Happy Idiot.

WATCH:

18. Willis Earl Beal – Experiments in Time

Sometimes, it’s suggested that an artist has “done a 180” as a hyperbolic expression to indicate a change in style. It’s rarely the case that the saying is justified in its use, however. This, along with several other contributing factors, is what makes Experiments in Time such a unique experience. Beal, formerly of the lo-fi blues and proto-folk category, turned his attention to music that is ambient, delicate and cautiously quiet. So radical is the departure, one may even be found double-checking that it is indeed the same man. A completely-unexpected sensation and a welcomed reinvention.

THREE TOP TRACKS: Slow Bus, Waste It Away, Same Auld Tears.

LISTEN:

17. The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers
Spotify || Rdio

They may wander off for years at a time, but the Pornos are never really gone. You couldn’t kill those mothercanuckers with all of the weapons in Liam Neeson’s arsenal. Theirs is an undying spirit, which resurfaces on arguably be their best LP since Twin Cinema. The bombast of the title track, the defiant stride of “Marching Orders” and the Superchunk wig-out of “War on the East Coast” are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Perhaps the best thing about Brill Bruisers is that everyone will walk away with their own highlight – and there’s absolutely no wrong answers here.

THREE TOP TRACKS: Champions of Red Wine, Brill Bruisers, Marching Orders.

LISTEN:

16. Harmony – Carpetbombing
Spotify || Rdio || Bandcamp

Australian children’s entertainer Don Spencer once sang that “The greater part of every state is off the beaten track.” It’s certainly not what he meant, but this much is true of Carpetbombing – while most local releases concerned themselves with the inner workings of city streets or behind the closed doors of suburbia, Harmony’s second LP was covered in the grit, blood and petrol of outhouses, country yards and battered shacks. It’s a grim, confronting and occasionally terrifying record. It’s more Australian than most albums have a right to be. Carpetbombing is the sounds of then and the sounds of now.

THREE TOP TRACKS: Big Ivan, Do Me a Favour, Carpetbomb.

LISTEN:

15. Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues
Spotify || Rdio

Against Me! began in the bedroom of a teenager named Tom Gabel. It began again on the global stage, lead with aplomb by a thirty-something named Laura Jane Grace. The never-say-die punk spirit that was aflame with its origins continued to flicker defiantly, albeit guiding the path of significantly different subject matter – street-walking, identity crises and parenthood, to name a few. Transgender is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It’s what they – and we – needed more than anything. This, friends, is the first day of the rest of Against Me!’s life. God bless its transsexual heart.

THREE TOP TRACKS: True Trans Soul Rebel, Two Coffins, Transender Dysphoria Blues.

LISTEN:

14. You Beauty – Jersey Flegg
Spotify || Rdio

It doesn’t matter if you win or lose – it’s how you play the game. This has been drilled into the heads of countless children, and it sticks for a reason – it reflects on more than just its immediate point of reference. Case in point: Few played a better game in the year passed than You Beauty, the supergroup-of-sorts that brought to life a nameless NRL star of a bygone era. It didn’t even matter if you didn’t know your Joey Johns from your Freddie Fitler – the storytelling was just that enticing. Jersey Flegg was a shoe-in for best and fairest.

THREE TOP TRACKS: Now Her Skirt, Rabbits, Ann-Maree.

LISTEN:

13. Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else
Spotify || Rdio

There were a lot of notable lines scattered throughout the eight tracks that made up Cloud Nothings’ third studio album, but perhaps the most telling comes in its closing number: “I’m not telling you all that I’m going through.” It’s rung true throughout the collected works of the Dylan Baldi vehicle; perhaps never moreso here – revealing a sliver of introspect and innermost struggle, but always pulling back before a complete reveal unfurls. Nowhere Else also takes the band further into the sprawling, incessant drive of noisy alt-rock, making it a true crowning achievement with the promise of continued future greatness.

THREE TOP TRACKS: I’m Not Part of Me, Now Here In, Pattern Walks.

WATCH:

12. Young Fathers – Dead
Spotify || Rdio || Soundcloud

Regardless of what you perceived to be its benefits or its drawbacks, the referendum to decide on its independence is generally perceived to be the biggest thing to emerge from Scotland within 2014… at least, it would have been for those that didn’t hear or discover Young Fathers. The collective’s debut LP was one conceived under cover of darkness, revelling in pitch blackness while also taking the initiative to lead the procession toward distant lights. This is hip-hop that wants to be a part of the revolution – and when it comes, those not with them will be first to go.

THREE TOP TRACKS: Am I Not Your Boy, Get Up, Low.

WATCH:

11. Moon Hooch – This is Cave Music
Soundcloud

The title of Moon Hooch’s second LP stems from what they refer to their music as from a categorical standpoint. You’ll certainly be thankful they did the groundwork for you, as what they do cannot exactly fit directly into any given spectrum. It’s a niche carved on the outside of alternative music – if such a thing is even possible – that digs deep. The trio implement thunderous horns and pitting them in a duel atop ricocheting drum patterns; locking the gates until a victor emerges. This is love. This is war. This is jazz. This is rock. This is cave music.

THREE TOP TRACKS: Bari 3, No. 6, Contra Dubstep.

LISTEN:

Advertisements

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

RR-main-press-image-1024x684[1]

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: Hunx & His Punx (USA), January 2013

Yep, another Q&A. I think I was reading a lot of Rolling Stone at the time and was trying to mimic their conversational Q&A style. I’m not so sure it suits me, to be honest. I did love chatting with Mr. Hunx, however. His band are fantastic fun. This tour in particular was an obscene amount of it. This interview is pretty silly; I giggled a lot going back and looking at it.

– DJY, October 2014

***

What a month to be a queer punk in Australia! Just weeks after a blistering tour from bear-friendly hardcore queens Limp Wrist, the Ramones-esque proto-punk of Hunx and His Punx have just touched down in the land of Oz for the first time ever. While here, the band will perform at both the Sydney Festival and at Sugar Mountain in Melbourne, amongst other headlining shows. We got on the phone with Seth Bogart – aka Hunx, the band’s fearlessly fabulous figurehead – to discuss new material, new homes and inappropriate zoo visits.

Hi, Seth! Where are you taking this call from?

I’m in my apartment in LA. I really love it here, it’s really nice! Everyone’s really hot, the weather’s really hot. It’s a really big city, too. I dunno, it’s just fun!

Well, enjoy LA while you can – it won’t be long before you’re here in Australia with us!

Oh my god, I can’t wait! It’s been so long. I’ve been wanting to come and see you guys for three years now. I’m so excited!

Tell us a little bit about the line-up of H+HP that you’ll be bringing with you for this tour.

Well, Shannon and Erin – who have kind of always been in the band – are coming. This guy Frankie, who is kind of a weirdo, is going to be playing guitar for us. The other two girls we had playing guitar for us got pregnant.

Wait – at the same time?

Yes! It was a real inconvenience!

What’s so weird about this new guy, anyway?

He’s just kind of perverted. He has, like, a massive foot fetish, too. He’ll be like taking pictures of our feet while we’re sleeping and stuff. He’s really hot – but I have a boyfriend and Frankie’s straight; so it’s kind of difficult.

You’ll be bringing some new material out on this tour, is that true?

We’ll be playing songs from all three albums, and we’re in the middle of writing a new record at the moment called Street Punx. Hopefully we’ll have some of that new material for you by the time we get there.

What is the new album sounding like?

It’s MEGA punk. The more I was playing fast, fun songs with the girls, the more we were enjoying them. So we just started writing like that. Plus, I was pissed off at a lot of people and needed to get some things out of my system, get some anger out. I just started writing mean songs. I’ve always loved The Germs, and I always wanted to make a California punk record – and now is my chance!

Have you guys had much of a chance to run through what you’re going to play in Australia?

Well, to be honest with you, we live in four different cities. So we don’t really play that often. When was the last time we toured? I think… [trails off] …oh, we played a couple of shows about four months ago and that’s been about it. Shannon and I just write songs at the moment in our bedrooms and just send them to one another. We haven’t even really rehearsed yet – so, I don’t know! I’m sure it’ll all work out by the time we get to Australia. I think we’re playing a skate park the day before we leave, so we’ll sort it out then.

The band have always been known for some provocative imagery and aesthetics – from the cover of the Gay Singles compilation to the band’s videos. Do you feel that you’ve drawn a lot of people in over the years because of the band’s aesthetics?

I would hope so! I just like the way things look. I just love being involved with things like the artwork, y’know? I mean, there’s one side of me that just wants to get up on stage and be punk and go crazy and stuff like that; and there’s also this other side of me that’s like a grandma – really into arts and crafts [laughs]. I want what people see on the outside to reflect the band and reflect the sound. I also don’t trust people in bands that don’t do art. I just find it weird if you’re in a band and you don’t know how to make it look the way it sounds. You really need to be involved with the entire creative process in order for it to totally work.

Hunx and His Punx seem to have always taken their sounds from everything from the Ramones to the Ronettes in their music. Have you ever felt a difficulty fitting into a “scene” – being too pop for punk and vice versa?

I don’t think we really fit in anywhere, really. We’re too “gay” for punk, and we’re too punk or too rock for most gay shit. It’s all the same, really. We’re just about being ourselves. It’s cool if you don’t fit in. I love it at our shows when there’s the big tough punk guys standing next to the weird teenagers and the gay guys. It’s so weird, and it’s so awesome. I’m so excited to see what our Australian audiences are going to be like.

Do you have any ideas of what to expect on your first trip to Australia?

I just want to see a kangaroo’s boner! After that I can sit back and relax.

INTERVIEW: Ben Kweller (USA), September 2010

Let’s make something clear. I don’t care if you’re a metalhead, a dance nut, a hip-hop head… whatever you are. If you don’t like Ben Kweller, I’m calling shenanigans. The highest order of shenanigans. How could you say not to that adorable, forever-twentysomething face? Those insanely catchy songs? The joy that just thinking of Ben Kweller brings? Naturally, motherfucker brought the sunshine in this interview. Haven’t had the pleasure since, but I did finally get to see him live in 2012. He was really great. Of course he was.

– DJY, October 2014

***

It’s seemingly impossible to find Ben Kweller in an unhappy mood. The chipper singer-songwriter is in high spirits, on the line from his house. He even sounds upbeat about housework: “I did some yard work today!” he reports happily.

Kweller lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife, Liz, and two kids – Dorian, 4, and Judah, five months. The Kwellers made the move shortly after Dorian’s birth. “A lot of people still think I’m a New Yorker,” says Kweller, formerly of Brooklyn, “but I made the move after I recorded [last album] Changing Horses. It was actually recorded down here in Spoon’s studio – y’know the band Spoon? And after being here for like a month, we were like “man, let’s just move to Austin.” I grew up in Texas, and it’s nice being near my parents – I think it was a good change.”

Aside from raising both his family and his plants, Kweller has been working on a new record. At the time of the interview, its working title is Go Fly a Kite. “It’s basically code for ‘go fuck yourself,’” says Kweller with a snicker. He talks at length and with a great excitement about the album, which marks yet another change of direction from the down-beat Americana of Changing Horses. “It’s definitely a rock & roll record,” he comments. “A lot of electric guitars, piano and what have you. I’m really happy with it.” It also marks a musical change of having significantly less musicians than last time, whittling it down to just bassist Chris Morrissey and drummer Mark Stepro. “I did that one record where I played everything myself [2006’s Ben Kweller ] – and that was fun, and I might try it again sometime, but there’s really nothing like playing with other people. I think the thrill of music can be found in reacting to another person when you’re playing, seeing what they’re doing – y’know, just creating something as a group.”

The way Kweller discusses the lyrics of the record, Go Fly a Kite may also feature some of Ben’s darker work to date. “It’s kind of a grittier subject matter,” he says frankly when asked about the songwriting process. I had a big falling-out with one of my best friends. He had this new girlfriend that just came in and didn’t want him to do anything with the friends he already had and the people who loved him. She just wanted to push him away from everything. So there’s a few songs addressing all that – one called Gossip, and there’s another one called Jealous Girl.” In spite of all this, Ben is also quick to assure that “there’s still that Kweller optimism” when it comes down to it. Don’t let the bastards get you down, right, Ben?

It seems out of character for Kweller to be singing about such interpersonal dramas – he’s usually the type to sing sweet lines like “I’m in love with someone who’s as pretty as a flower” and “I’d do anything you want me to.” The twenty-nine-year-old may seem like one of rock’s biggest softies, but Kweller laughs good-naturedly at the suggestion, adding that he’s definitely “had his fights.” “I just have a different outlook on life,” he continues. “I try to stay positive and deal with the bullshit that comes my way, but always remember that tomorrow is a new day.”

It’s on this note that conversation switches to Kweller bringing his sunny disposition, as well as his two-piece band, to Australia for the first time in about eighteen months.”Oh yeah!” says Kweller with a smile so obvious it can be seen through a phone line. “Can’t wait for that. It’s always so much fun in Australia. I’m ready for my Vegemite in the morning!”

This tour will also see Kweller playing on the south coast of New South Wales for the first time ever, as a part of a three-day blues festival. Despite being a frequent visitor to Australia since the famous Bens tour in 2003 (alongside fellow ‘Bens’ – Lee and Folds), Kweller has never played many places beyond the capital cities. Exploring the country is always a treat for him, however – “I’ve been to a few outskirts,” he recalls. “I had a friend who lived in Geelong, so I’ve been to the suburbs; and I’ve been to the little beach-y towns. I seem to have a good time everywhere I go [in Australia] – the people are always so mellow. Kinda reminds me a bit of being in Texas, actually. The land looks the same, and the people have the right vibe.”

INTERVIEW: TV on the Radio (USA), December 2008

No need to bullshit about here: TV on the Radio are one of my favourite bands of all time. I’ve seen them live four times, I own and love all of their music and they have been with me for a very, very long time. Nearly ten years, in fact. I’ve grown to love them more and more with every album, reaching fever pitch around the time that 2008’s Dear Science came out. How fitting, then, that this was when I would interview Jaleel Bunton, formerly the band’s drummer and now their bass player following the loss of the late, great Gerard Smith. Jaleel was a very cool cat – he was talkative, engaging and smart. I was beyond stoked with how this one turned out – and even looking at it now, my work here isn’t too bad. Definitely one of the better features I put together around this time.

Smith actually gets a mention in this feature, and I nearly cried reading over it again. He was a remarkable musician, and is dearly missed. TVotR are here at the end of the month for Splendour in the Grass – infuriatingly, not doing any sideshows. Hopefully, we’ll hear some new stuff soon.

– DJY, July 2013

***

“Sorry, man!”

Jaleel Bunton has returned from his promise to be right back, apologising for the noise. “I just entered a very loud rehearsal space.” This is easily forgivable – Jaleel Bunton is a fairly busy guy, consistently on the move. He is one-fifth of Brooklyn-based avant-garde rockers TV on the Radio, who are headed to Australia in early 2009 on the back of their latest album, Dear Science.

Released in September, Science has topped Rolling Stone’s end-of-year list and earned high-ranking positions in many more. It was also the second record that Bunton was an official part of the band as its drummer. Certainly, one could see this as a cementing of the band as a five-piece; and Jaleel himself tends to agree.

“The band started as just Tunde [Adebimpe, lead vocalist] and Dave [Andrew Sitek, guitarist/producer]. From that, it’s now grown into a five-way collaboration – this is the first time where everyone wrote songs for the record. We’re still trying to journey to – œfind ourselves’ as a five-piece, and I think Dear Science was a big step in that direction.”

With tight, groovy jams like Dancing Choose and Golden Age, as well as full-band freakouts like DLZ andHalfway Home plentiful on the new record, Science sounds far more like a band-focused record than their last, 2006’s wildly successful Return to Cookie Mountain. Putting this to Bunton himself, however, reveals a little uncertainty to merit of such ideas.

“One thing I like about this band is that it doesn’t really adhere to the typical band script of – ‘we were best mates in high school, started playing in our garage, rented out a studio’ – we’re not like that,” he muses. “So it wasn’t really a focus to make it more of a band record; it was just a goal to make a record that all five of us that we were proud of. We wanted everyone to participate because we were all individual writers before we met.”

Having said that, there is still certainly lenience towards the core trio – Adebimpe, Sitek and vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Kyp Malone. When asked which of the three Bunton personally connects with the most when it comes to songwriting, he notes that it really “depends on the song.”

“It’s pretty hard question to answer, y’know…” He pauses, then continues by stating that the band “all works together.” “It’s a little happy home… I mean, we definitely have our issues, but I’m impressed with the fact that everyone is able to keep their egos in check- that’s a part of art.

“Everyone has their different, particular talents,” he continues, focusing on particular examples. “Dave’s a really good producer, it’s something I watch and am really amazed by. And Tunde’s a fantastic melody writer. I work well with everybody with what they’re good at, to answer your question.”

If you have never experienced TVOTR live in any shape or form, you are most certainly in for a surprise. Perhaps the band’s most well-known performance is that of their appearance on Letterman a few years back, playing single Wolf Like Me. The already-dancey track was given a wild, rollicking renovation in the live environment – a credit, in particular, to Bunton’s Bonham-sized drums. Despite the impression that songs likeWolf were meant for the live environment, Jaleel explains that each song that this is simply not the case.

“I grew up studying how to play instruments; but I know a lot of people are limited by what their hands do and not what your mind is doing,” he says, elaborating on different degrees of musicianship. “When TV on the Radio writes or records, we write music to be recorded – as we want to hear it, not as we want to feel it.”

So what changes when it’s time to put the songs in front of a crowd? “It’s the exact opposite,” he states. “We’re more concerned with what it feels like than what it sounds like. This is the first time we’ve had quite a bit of live experience under our belt, making this record, so I think that’s slipped in subconsciously.”

Another staple of TV on the Radio live performances is bassist Gerard Smith’s near-obsessive refusal to face the audience whilst he plays. Jaleel laughs and describes Smith as “one of the single most puzzling enigmas on the planet.”

“There was no moment that made him the person that never turns around on stage – and if it did, it happened a long time before I met him. I will say this,” he continues as if giving an inside scoop, “I HAVE seen him,ONE time, turn around and wink at his girlfriend at the time in the audience. It lasted a matter of four seconds and it blew my mind!”

There is absolutely no doubt here – Jaleel Bunton is a charismatic, friendly and genuinely interesting man. If you missed out on tickets to any of their sideshows, and you are heading along to any of the Big Days Out, don’t miss your chance to catch Bunton in action with TV on the Radio. Hopefully, you’ll be excited as he is to be touring this festival. When asked if he was looking forward to the shows, he replies, “Are you kidding? I can’t believe I’m going to be travelling every day with Neil Young!”

INTERVIEW: Adam Green (USA), November 2008

Although this was my second interview feature posted for FasterLouder, it actually turned out to be my first-ever interview. So there’s a piece of history here, kids! I was really, really nervous going into this one – not only was I doing my first interview, I was speaking to New York legend Adam Green. He was a pretty big deal for me back then, and to some extent he is now as well. I can still sing a stack of his songs off by heart, and I’ve always had a soft spot for his music.

So, did I have anything to worry about in retrospect? Not at all. Adam was, to this day, one of the most entertaining people I’ve ever spoken to. He’s naturally charismatic and eccentric, and it made for some absolutely killer quotes. The feature itself is a little choppy, but I’d develop my style over time – and this was as decent a start-off as any.

– DJY, July 2013

***

Some musicians are uncomfortable speaking to complete strangers about the music they have put their heart and soul into, and will often be a little rude or unfriendly. Not New York’s anti-folk poet laureate Adam Green, however. The second we are connected, I am welcomed by a very enthusiastic “Holy shit!”, followed by a very intimate detailing of the night before.

“I never get hungover – I don’t know why,” he explains as if speaking casually to a close friend. “But I feel like I’m in a state of euphoria as I walk around!” Green’s night involved going to a friend’s house and drinking at a fake bar that a friend had built within their house – an adventure that may seem out of the ordinary to most. Green enthuses, however, that he is “always looking for new things to be a part of”- a trait many musicians these days just can’t flaunt.

But there’s a lot more to Adam Green than his late-night antics. By day, Adam Green makes music. Great music, too. Since starting out with fellow oddball Kimya Dawson in the now-revered Moldy Peaches (yes, from the Juno soundtrack), Green has gone on to a low-key yet fruitful and entertaining solo career.

Earlier this year, his fifth solo album, Sixes and Sevens, was quietly launched to generally positive acclaim. The album is a collection of short, sweet and diverse pop music that he is decidedly proud of. “It’s been a long time coming,” he says of the record, his first since 2006’s Jacket Full of Danger. The first track on the album in particular, entitled Festival Song, is a bold and self-described “bombastic” artistic statement that derived, ironically, out of an uncomfortable fear.

“I never liked playing the festivals,” he explains. “I didn’t understand it. I was just someone who went to festivals – I used to get a lot of nerves before going on.” The solution? “I thought of making up a song up that I could open up at a festival with, and it would build up the show to be alright. That’s what the song started as.”

Another noticeable aspect of Festival Song is its starkly different vocals – light years away from Green’s distinctive liquored croon. “The more angry and lonely and defeated that I sang this motherfucking song, it just sounded shit-punk-better.” This led Adam to unconventionally sing the song worse with each and every recording. “I feel sort of like a vampire,” he muses in the most casual way one can say they feel like a vampire. “I’ve always wanted people to see me as more Goth, and they never do! I think people now know I wanna suck their fucking blood.”

A vivid imagination? Certainly – but anyone who has listened closely to Adam’s smart, abstract and often slightly ridiculous way with words in his music would expect nothing less. Ask him the tales of any of the characters featured in his songs, and you’ll receive a glowing, in-depth anecdote. Talk of Carolina (“her lips taste just like sunk ships/But her breasts taste just like breakfast”) brings up memories of the eponymous character of the song slinking around her apartment – “Like a cat”, he emphasises. He also tells of the abusive relationship between her and an unknown friend of his. “He perceived her soul to be made of farts and shit – it was just a piece of trash, and he told me so.”

Shifting talk to Emily (“Baby, when I get you on that Persian rug/That’s the kind of movie I’ve been dreaming of”) elicits an entirely different, far more upbeat response. “What a lovely, lovely woman she is,” he says happily. “She came to my concert once looking like Goldilocks!”

With such fascinatingly weird and wonderful stories to tell, it’s natural to be inquisitive of the driving forces behind the man’s lyrics. When it comes to his inspiration, however, Green blames not a musician, book or writer – but a voice in his head. A voice, he reveals, that has been getting him into a spot of trouble.

“I’ve been pissing off strangers lately,” he states matter-of-factly, claiming that not everyone “gets” him and his little lyric-inspiring voice. “It’s my own fault, I think. I always think people can understand where I’m coming from – but then I say something and it offends them, and before I know it they’re crying and their boyfriend wants to kick my arse. Some people just don’t like my tone.”

Certainly, Adam isn’t going to impress everyone in his travels. Having said that, he’s still certainly acquired quite a devoted cult fan-base for his particular brand of indie pop. One country in particular that has warmed to Green’s style, interestingly enough, is Germany. “I think, at first, it was just because of my good looks,” he says in regards to this unnatural phenomenon. “They’re probably so boring, that I just make a boring thing and they like it.”

Green’s touring schedule has taken him to various hot-spots around the globe for years, with his Australian visit finally on the horizon. The tour sees Green taking the best of both worlds – a high billing at Meredith Music Festival in December, and three far more intimate east coast shows. When asked which scale show he prefers, he confesses that he will just “go where he is told”. “If someone says I have to play a monkey cage in an Egyptian zoo… y’know, I’ll give it a shot.”

Certainly the semi-ironic boldness of this statement, the eccentricity of our conversation and the genuine lightning strike of brilliance that comes through the Adam Green discography is certain to culminate in these upcoming shows. The tour will surely intrigue many – including Green.

“Who’s Meredith, anyway?” he asks me.

“Is she cute?”