Another magical Melbourne month with a huge swag of new releases and gigs to keep us busy. During May I was lucky to catch Lauryn Hill at the Palais, St Vincent at Howler, some Australian jazz including the David Rex Quartet at Stonnington Jazz Festival and Jennifer Kingwell’s ‘Lotus Eaters’ EP launch at the Wesley Anne to name a few, whilst also listening to over 300 new titles during the month. Here are some of my recommends:
The Bombay Royale “The Island of Doctor Electrico”
One of my favourite Australian bands The Bombay Royale release their second album “The Island of Doctor Electrico” this month and to put it simply, I love it! Part Bollywood, part surf, part disco-funk flavours, the Royale create an epic musical adventure – the perfect soundtrack to their imagined motion picture “The Island of Doctor Electrico”. Totally digging on the surf guitar, the high-energy dance tracks, the moody tension-building moments worthy of a James Bond action scene and the twangy hypnotic vocals from Parvyn Kaur Singh known as ‘The Mysterious Lady’. Highlight tracks include the single ‘Henna Henna’ (accompanied by a fabulous film clip) and the title track. These guys are a complete package – their records are truly world class but they are also dynamite live. Last time I saw BR at Howler they had a giant blow up elephant hung from the ceiling! I love the costumes, the concept and the commitment. Don’t miss their album launch shows at Howler June 20 and 21. I can’t wait to go to the electrico island!
Nick Waterhouse “Holly”
Smoky bars and juke joints come to mind when you hear Nick Waterhouse. His sound is reminiscent of early r’n’b, jump blues and vintage soul rock but he doesn’t sound like a forgotten artist from 1958. This is rhythm and blues for 2014.
Waterhouse reeks of cool LA attitude. His music has a simmered swagger with dirty sounding horns, vintage electric guitars and a drawling vocal twang that never really dials up to 11. The sound is contained swagger. He’s sexy in that moody distant way – he has a slightly bookish yet garage look. His slightly restrained vocal delivery has an air of confident nonchalance.
I saw Nick in London last year at the jazz café in Camden. I was already a huge fan – I adored his debut album ‘Times All Gone’, one of my favorite records of 2012. Seeing him live made me feel a little seduced. I also felt a little jealous of his too cool for school stage presence, his ability write such a great set of tunes and his confident live delivery.
So, I was super excited to hear his second offering simply called ‘Holly’. First impression though, to be honest, I’m not digging the album cover. Sure – she’s a nice looking chick, but it makes this album look like a country or indie record. I get that Nick doesn’t want to be pigeon holed as a ‘soul revivalist’ and lumped in with the Dap-tonian regime but I think this cover is detrimental to his vibe. It just doesn’t suit the tunes and I don’t think it would help this record get picked up by random shoppers digging the record shelves. That is my only criticism however. Once you get past the prairie, “Holly” is certainly worth a listen. Ten tracks roll out to a tidy 30 minute player containing 7 Waterhouse tunes plus a cover of Mose Allison’s “Let It Come Down”, L Holt’s “Ain’t There Something That Money Can’t Buy” (homage to some original influences) and “It #3″ by T. Seagull (an interesting nod to current indie scene).
The title track “Holly” is a stand out with jaunty horn lines and terrific organ sound (performed by Nick himself who does all keys and guitars on the record). “Dead Room” is a catchy Clairy Browne’ style track with the backing vocalists playing a feature call and response roll. The opener “High Tiding” is a laid back stroll into the record which sets the tone nicely and would be brilliant in a Tarantino film scene. Waterhouse – worth a listen, worth watching out for. Just watch out for random hippie chicks called Holly hogging the photo shoot.
‘Holly’ live on KCRW (Boy oh boy I hope he comes to Melbourne and we can get him into PBS’ Studio 5!)
Cookin’ on 3 Burners
The 6th album from Australia’s favorite Hammond trio Cookin’ on 3 Burners has finally arrived! It’s hard to believe it’s been 5 years since their single “This Girl” hit no 1 on the itunes R’n’B chart (a massive feat for a Melbourne based instrumental funk trio!) and the album Soul Messin’ dominated soul airwaves. But finally, the ‘burners are back! This record sees the guys continue on with their brand of trio funk (evident with the killer opening track ‘Skeletor’ ) but also sees them develop their sound into a lush cinematic sphere (with tracks such as ‘The Vanished’). They team up with a stack of guest vocalists on this album for a bunch of singalong-able tunes including Daniel Merriweather on ‘Losin’ Streak’ (love the smokey husky vocal tones on this one), Jason Heerah from Electric Empire on ‘You Got the Better of Me’ (a jaunty northern soul number), and the gorgeous Kylie Auldist on ‘Made Up Mind’ (a summery breezy tune with cheeky lyrics that I predict is going to go crazy-town on the UK airwaves, love this track). The quirk factor to the record is the cinematic flavor that shines through on the instrumental tracks such as the title tune “Blind Bet”. Part funk part spy theme (with a bit of a surf flavour) these tracks sound like they are born for the next ‘Oceans 11’ or ‘Get Shorty’ film score. Love the break beat with the James Bond-esque string arrangements (courtesy of Ross Irwin) and also the dirty Hawaii cop show vibe on “The Spanish Vibe”. Almost wish the movie style instrumentals were the whole album.. but then we’d miss out on Kylie Auldists’ stunning vocals which would be a shame! Lucky for us we get both. I’m super excited about the launch party live shows (Melbourne at The Corner on July 4 and Sydney at Basement on July 11). Both feature a plethora of special guests, B-girls and B-boys. Melbourne soul scene represent.
Gig of the month:
St Vincent May 23 Howler
Definitely a candidate for my Top 10 releases of 2014, I have been besotted with St Vincent’s self titled album since I got a copy earlier this year. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the live show but I was more than impressed.
Firstly I must just say, wow! This girl can PLAY guitar. Total rock goddess moments, St Vincent (Annie Clark) got up on a podium and shred away like nobody’s business. If you haven’t heard ‘St Vincent’, do not pass go and collect $200, go and pick it up now! The record contains very clever interesting songwriting, catchy hooks and great arrangements. Clark experiments with vocal layering, electric guitar with loops, synths, electronic drum sounds, keyboards and double tracked vocals and creates a parallel indie punk girl world that is hard not to like. So as far as the gig went St Vincent had some great songs to work with. But this was no ordinary gig .. St Vincent put on a show! She constructed her compositions into a piece that fused theatre, art-rock, spoken word and indie dance party. Her amazing keys player/guitarist/backing vocalist joined her in some coordinated dance moves that were part robotic part kabuki and it was simply beautiful. Subtle, effective and striking, they moved back and forth up and down the stage and held freeze frame moments against strobe lighting. She had a trio backing her, armed with pre-programmed tracks perfectly synched, which completed the epic synth rock soundscape. Kudos must be paid to the unmentioned star of the show – Clarks’ guitar tech who ran on and off at lighting speed at the scheduled moments to change her axe. Highlight tracks included ‘Rattlesnake’, ‘Digital Witness’ and ‘Bring Me Your Loves’. Nothing about this gig I didn’t like. I’m sold. The show was inspiring, elegant, rebellious and planned with an irresistible punk grunge vibe throughout. Sounds like a contradiction? Correct. Can’t wait to see what St Vincent does next.
You want some more?
Also worth checking out are these titles I am CRANKING at the moment…
– Dizz1 “Everyday Grind” EP Yo, yo, yo. Oz producer ft Aloe Blacc on the one twos
– The Chalice “We Are The Chalice” EP featuring my fav gal Lizzo on ‘W.E.R.K”. classic lines her such as “Look like a grrrl. Act like a lady,. Think like a man. WERK like a boss”
– Mala Noche “Metele” Dance dance cumbia dance 0 straight to the ipod gym mix, thank you.
-Taylor McFerrin “Degrees of Light” Moody, neo soul. Its a grower.
and new compilation “Mod Jazz and then Some” out on Ace Records. Choice cuts for Jazz Got Soul on this one.
Feeling like a night out? Gigs coming up soon…
– Lake Minnetonka @ Boney June 5
– Florelie Escano @ The Luwow June 13
– Cumbia Cosmonauts & Madre Monte @ The Hi Fi June 20
– The Bombay Royale @ Howler June 20 + 21
– Cookin’ on 3 Burners @ The Corner July 4
and records to keep an eye out for..
– Naomi Shelton & The Gospel Queens – Can’t wait for the new Gospel Queens record in late July/August.
– Me! My album “I Hope You’ll Be Very Unhappy Without Me” comes out July 29. Woop. Say what? Woop! Say what??
Until next month,