Sunday, February 27, 2011

Alpine Live @ The Corner

Last Friday, I got the chance to check out the wonderful Alpine, who you may remember from
their impressive Zurich EP (or their previous appearance on AMR in this post). Well, here's a little write-up of their inaugral EP launch.
It’s quite a milestone to sell out The Corner Hotel for an EP launch, particular if it’s the only recorded output to your name. But young local outfit Alpine can tick that achievement off their bucket list. The room was abuzz, and with the exception of a few possible chaperoning parents, swarming with young, stylish things (usually clued in to these sorts of things). The vast majority of which were fashionable females. Once the sextet took the stage, it became understandable, they look pretty fresh themselves.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

2011 just got 100% more awesome

We'll get into that hyperbolic title, but firstly the headlines...

I Heard The News Today, Oh Boy
So, to the title of our post. Well, aside from a small love affair with Akron/Family, Bright Eyes and Trail Of Dead (and of course, the R word), we haven't covered much of 2011's big album releases round here lately. Well here's a little list of the exciting releases due in the coming months. In no particular order:

TV On The Radio - Nine Types of Light  
Due: May 11
As previously reported, the New York art-rockers are readying to follow-up their excellent 2008 record Dear, Science.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

We Have A Weiner!

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner for the first ever competition on Al's Music Rant.
A recap. A few posts back, I unveiled a new section that looks at what's been spinning on my CD player and playing on the iTunes lately. Saddled with the rather unispiring and obvious title of What I Have Been Listening To Lately, with the intention of asking readers to come up with a new name for the segment.
Congratulations then to Jake Davies, who receives the prize of two EPs and the glory of coming up with the new title, (which is rather pun-ishing). I give you...

Wrangling The Heard
Got a nice ring don't you think? Let's give it the maiden voyage treatment with a batch of new Aussie music. 

The Savladors - Misspent Youth
Now I'd be the first to put my hand up and say that there really is enough 'The' bands in the world, but how once you hear the summery indie pop of The Salvadors you too may think there's room for one more exception.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Buzzes Like A Fridge

Front up, some new writerly musings from yours truly over at Beat magazine.
Namely Smith Westerns' Dye It Blonde, my full review of The Hidden Venture's Live At St Andrews EP (from my previous listening station) and that vaguely snarky Pearl Jam from a few days back (featured here). Also, it may have got missed in the last couple of days' rabid posting, but Al's Music Rant is appearing as part of the Comedy Festival - details here.

What causes fatigue and is currently all over the interwebz? (aside from pop-up ads)
...that's right, Radiohead's new album The King of Limbs. It seems you can't throw a rock into the digital landscape without hitting someone who has something to say about it. Hell, when it comes to conducing hype, I'm no better. But I'm sort of enjoying this over-saturation. Surely there have been, and will be, bigger things to happen to the world than 37 minutes of new music, but there's something exciting but the circus of it all. I've actually got a 'proper' review in the can and ready to go, but for the sake of letting the dust of opinion-forming muster a little longer, I'm gonna hold off for the time being. Speaking 
Anyway, in my role as being not part of the solution but part of the problem, here's the highlights concerning what we'll now code RHLP8 for fear of increasing those Google hit rates.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Radiohead - The King Of Limbs (Live Listening)

Radiohead - The King of Limbs
Opening up the zip file, here are the facts:
  • That right above, is the official cover included
  • it is indeed eight tracks as previously speculated
  • ...clocking in at 37.4 minutes
  • There's some familiar titles there including Morning Mr. Magpie, Give Up The Ghost and Lotus Flower
  • I'm giddily excited

1) Bloom
Some twinkling looped piano, some strange looped effects - including Selway's familar off-kilter drum patterns begin the album, it's all cut and reverberated through. A minute in and we have Mr. Yorke's first appearance, "Open your mouth wide" as far as openings go, it's distinctly Radiohead, at least in their Kid A/Amnesiac experimental electronica mode. Yorke's soothing, drawn-out vocal contrasts nicely with the mathematic repetition and bubbling bass just behind him. Can even make out some of those skittering effects that coloured Like Spinning Plates. About halfway through the track and there's some more orchestrated colouring, horns, strings - all moving in ascension with some haunting harmonies. A short breakdown and the vocal line returns, with some equally yawning horns in tow. As is usually the case with all things 'head, it's beautifully textured, and coloured. As far as opening tracks go, it's more Packt Like Sardines than Airbag or even 15 Step, but perhaps it's a taster for what's to come and not the firecracker that will ignite it. Bloom seems a farily appropriate title then...

2) Morning Mr Magpie
Wow, this is not the version I remember, some spidery guitar work is fractured into some more textured looping, pattered snare. Yorke's vocal melody pierces over the loop, in sound it feels like an extension or a coda to Bloom. A vast change from the acoustic rendition that people may be familiar with from those Xmas podcasts all those years ago, transforming familiar tunes has always been the way the outfit do things - think of the shifts from early versions of Nude or Videotape to their album versions, not worse, just different.
There's some glimmer of the original as the textrues fade away to leave a low plucked guitar, some incessant vocal textures, and a stubbed bass pattern. It's all careening foward with delcious momentum however. Not necessarily building upward, but building none the less, like a rolling wheel. There's some interesting production going on in the background effects, very delicate swoops of guitar and ringing distortion. My memory's not great but the lyrics have change a bit too "Mr Magpie, you stole the music to my melody." A bit of light static into a fadeout and off.

3) Little By Little
Cool, sort of a lolloping rhythm with some chattering percussion pushed to the fore with guitars doing their low-slung bluesy thing a la Knives Out, I Might Be Wrong, Paranoid Android et al. Yorke continues a woozy delivery "the last one out of the box/the one that broke the spell," the 'bridge' (let's call it) has him delivering some sing-song patterns like "i'm such a tease/and you're such a flirt." That chattering percussion dies away to let his nagging descending line hit home, "little by little/by hook or by crook." Some more rhythms fill out the patterns, that chattering, but also some electronic high-hat work accentuating the syncopation. There's some sort of shimmering harp/guitar-esque chord that keeps appearing too, and then it's reversed to add a psychedelic flavour. The impression so far is that this is a rhytmic album, with a lot of dense textures built on fractured repetition. Sort of electronic music done with a live band setting, and so far - lots of gutiars. Always interesting to see how Radiohead will adapt their instruments. The result is a million miles away from, say, The Bends - but it's still them. It's probably a bit earlier to call - but it feels very different to In Rainbows thus far. This is however my favourite track, three tracks in. 
That nagging chorus and nursery-rhyme thing, combined with the jangling rhythms is very catchy. You can totally picture Thom doing his 'wobbly-head' thing to this live.

4) Feral
Another jazzy drum break, with very light chords punctuated over the top, as drifting away into the distance. The vocal enters, heavily treated and modified, a la Kid A's title track. Mr. Greenwood's bass enters the fray briefly only to depart again. There's swells of Thom's voice splaying and morphing off the walls. A little like Everything In Its Right Place's coda, but a lot more spooky. A little into it and there's something more solid, a sub-woofer testing bass rhythm that complements Yorke's cooing - oh and more treated vocals - bit like Pulk Pull/Revolving Doors. Can you tell I'm struggling to describe the experimentalism going on here? And at 3:13 it's the album's shortest track, a curious interlude. File under: Amnesiac outtake.

5) Lotus Flower 
Judging from the fact that it was released with a video of a wild, whipping Thom Yorke - this could very loosely be described as 'the single.' Though that term has little effect with a band like this anymore. No matter, a simple bass part is played out over a signature Phil Selway drum beat. All off-beat accentuation. A plucked guitar part rises through the mix to offset the drums, some handclaps echo lightly in the background; and that keys part is palmed off to the bassline. Again, this is in stark contrast to the earlier versions that the group have played before. Much more electronic and building on textures. Yorke slides into his timeless falsetto for the chorus, a nice fluttering melody against some rubber key work. The final line "listen to your heart" has the last word sliding and mirroring into itself, as if duplicating endlessly as the keyboard line thickens. The second verse sees Yorke retaining the higher register and more echoes of the vocal line disseminating into strange echoes. Strange single then,

6) Codex
ahhhh, the swoon of piano. Treated of course, but lush, full piano chords nonetheless. A very soft blip pulls the rhythm along, like a heart's pulse. While some sort of shimmering bells glisten over and through the chords. This is the 'quiet one' then. The piano sounds like its sinking underwater, or floating just beneath the surface and Yorke's vocal is crystal clear in contrast. It seems that Nigel Godrich still lends a peerless subtlety to the band's sound and arrangement. Later, there's some sort of muted horn that doubles the vocal line and remains - like some sort of foghorn in the night. Then two of them, move in contrasting harmony around the refrain. It's a beautiful track, simple, but some tricky production - like a ballad in slow-motion. Lots of references to water, which probably triggers that equally aquatic sound. About four minutes in, and there's a shift in tone, some trilling strings enter the fray, just blinking gently underneath - moving the track back towards its solemn piano chords, before a small audio coda that sounds like static wind blowing through the trees before it's sped up to reveal birds tweeting and becoming the opening for the next track...

7) Give Up The Ghost
This seems pretty faithful to the version that Yorke first debuted in his solo show, using the same loop pedal to repeat the background choir hook, complete with the thud of the palm on the acoustic guitar and clear, bright chords, emphasising the two-chord pattern. After a verse or two, and a keyboard sounding like a harp is added, some deft arpeggiating that supports the guitar strum. It's all quite beautiful, some reverb on Yorke's main vocal, and more vocal parts added to the main hook, some dancing around the main line. It's that same texture-building, cut-up arrangement of the opening tracks but applied to a much more fragile track. But rather than rolling, this one does build. More and more to the sound, reaching its apex with the line "into your arms" there seem to be dozens of little vocal melodies echoing and flashing across the main guitar pattern now. It's beautiful, hypnotising even. Those voices fade away, leaving the guitar/harp/key part and some more skittering effects a la Like Spinning Plates. We've just found another favourite track.

8) Separator
A light drum breakbeat brings us in, an incessant piano note each bar, and some wobbly synths. Then a jazzy bass-line plucked by Mr. Greenwood - on a double bass. Very nice, very rich. Yorke's vocal has a light delay on it, playing against that repeated piano note. The combination of the upright bass and the light breakbeat has a distinctly jazzy feel, like something some old-skool hip-hop would sample, if it wasn't for those strange keys whistling about the place. This'll be interesting to see live, there's more self-sampling going on too, cut-up vocals and repeated key parts. The guitars start to enter, offering light trills and fleet harmonics. Think the guitar work of early Television or even R.E.M. at a more relaxed pace, this like Give Up The Ghost before it, is building. The guitars cease to pluck and begin to move in washes and waves.There's more colours filling out the corners, all the whle the drums and jazzy bass keeping the foundation steady, but light. The guitars start to descend in discrenible shapes as the bass releaxes into just emphasising the chord changes. A lovely end.

...but an abrupt one. Is that it? It's concise, that's for sure, at just under forty minutes. It's easily the band's shortest album. A few minutes shy of Pablo Honey, not a great comparison, but it's interesting that even after an almost four year wait, the band have settled for, what is by today's standards, a shorter album. To be fair, they've learned their lesson. Hail To The Theif came under fire for being too long, in reality it probably wasn't - in fact at the time, fourteen new tracks from one of the best bands in the world wasn't too much to take in - but it's length certainly ended up being a sticking point with critics. The point is that, it's not really too short, it's delightfully concise. But one can't help but wonder what was inevitably cut from the shortlist, will there be a second disc of material as there was the physical release of In Rainbows, or another release further down the line, such as Amnesiac was to Kid A?
First impressions are that it's a heavily textured album, it doesn't feel to have the variety of In Rainbows nor the thematic consistency of OK Computer, but these are early days. If the subtle production is anything to go by, and if their past work is any indication, there are plenty of secrets and treasures waiting to surface after multiple listens (and don't worry, there will be many). In short, it's a instrospective, subtle and, dare I say it, futuristic? You can almost imagine it being the kind of jazz-inflected, space-rock they'd play in a club of the future. Or dub-step for lovers of krautrock, or some other ridiculous configuration of genre labels, because in essence they've produced another album that is uncategorisable. Isn't that why they're so beloved of real lovers of music the world over? breaking down barriers and styles. To create something totally unique, you can probably tell from this post that all the callbacks to past songs and albums are the sole reference points for these new creations. But it's mellow and beautifully strange.

As I said before, with the arrival of In Rainbows, " The task of judging any new Radiohead release is a complex and tricky affair" indeed, so instead I'll leave the judging till later, when the album's had time to sink in. And to do that, i'm just going to pop off now and listen to it again.
Either way, today is a piece of history, new music from one of the industry's most compelling, individual, unique - and obviously excellent - creators is always an event worth noting. And the digital release means that there's a proper sense of anticipation and occasion about the whole affair. Thanks for being part of it, now go and make your impressions, cause that's what counts - and I suspect that's the aim of Radiohead's whole intention.

    Radiohead - The King of Limbs is available RIGHT NOW!

    Well, those Oxford scalliwags have gone and pulled another stunner. After only a few mere hours after posting a small handful of tidbits to sate the fevered anticipation for The King Of Limbs, I quickly log online to find that they've released the damn thing! With a video and everything ready to go - the cheeky buggers!
    So, what else to do, but download away. I'd suggest three options at this point

    Thursday, February 17, 2011

    Al's Music Rant at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2011

    Ok, we've got a lil' bit o' this and a lil' bit o' that today. But first things first IMMA EAT YOUR BRAINS, THEN I START ROCKIN' GOLD TEETH AND FANGS, Argggh, curse you Nicki Minaj!

    Sorry about that, so, first things first, Al's Music Rant - the hour-long comedy show based on this very blog which debuted as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival, will be playing as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2011. Which means that come March 30th, you'll be able to see the show that critics called "a brilliant masterclass in music appreciation" (thanking you kindly, Mr. Flaherty, or should that be Mr. Flattery!); it also means you'll start seeing little Leunig logos all over my mug. But let's cut to the chase.

    Wednesday, February 16, 2011

    They're Still Alive

    Pearl Jam - Live On Ten Legs (Monkeywrench)
    Let’s be clear, the grunge survivors aren’t so much a band in the traditional sense anymore as a live institution. Like The Grateful Dead before them, Pearl Jam have established their persona through a ceaseless schedule to rival that of even Dylan’s Never Ending Tour. They don’t so much tour extensively as they do live on the road. As such, their studio output is now a more rare occurrence than the long swathe of bootlegs between them. 

    With the wide array of recordings on offer, both official and otherwise, one has to wonder as to the point of yet another live collection. There are already more interesting (the acoustic Live At Benaroya Hall) or extensive documents available (the seven disc Live At The Gorge set). So what does Live On Ten Legs have to offer?

    Monday, February 14, 2011


    Just when I'd finished rattling off about Valentine's Day and some love for music metaphor, then along comes the greatest news of all, that of a new Radiohead album. Yep, it's official, make your way to The King of Limbs website for full details, but essentially we'll have brand new music from the Oxford quintet this Sat 19th Feb.
    I don't want to downplay the significance of this event, but we all sort of knew that this was coming, so it doesn't have the same kind of shock and awe that the the release of In Rainbows did. That, and the pay-what-you-want model has been ditched, not a big problem for those who plan to buy the super deluxe set (details below) but it's interesting that after being lauded for popularising such a revolutionary model the band would opt for a fixed price scheme for this release.
    Anyway, what does it matter - say it out aloud, nay, shout it across the rooftops "New music from Radiohead!"
    So here's the facts:

    Love is in the something, something

    Yes, yes that witty title will reveal all. But first *bulletin music*

    I Heard The News Today, Oh Boy
    So yes, today is indeed the hallowed day of Cupid, Valentine's Day. Now Al's Music Rant has a bit of a potted history with ol' V Day. There's was the inaugral Valentine's Grinch playlist, it's grumpy sequel, and then another list for the softies celebrating that perennial song topic: the kiss. But this year is different...

    Wednesday, February 9, 2011

    I Heard The News Today, Oh Boy

    Oh, and just a reminder from last post about the lil' ol' competition that's running.
    All you have to do is come up with a witty musical-themed name for the new segment that is basically "Things I've Been Listening To Lately." email your idea, along with your name, mailing address and the subject line: AMR COMPETITION to to be in the running for these lil' guys:

    That's right you could be the proud owner of The Jezabels' Dark Storm and Big Scary's At The Mercy Elements, as well as the proud owner of the name you come up with for my new blog segment. Dig in. Entries close Sunday Feb 20th.

      Tuesday, February 8, 2011


      So the immortal chorus from one David Bowie should make things clear, there's gonna be a few tweaks and differences around here. Since Al's Music Rant is the production of just the one man, the titular Al, time is not always of the essence when it comes to consistent and lively blog posting.
      While I've always tried my very best to present articles, reviews, lists and the like with the most passionate, informative and entertaining content possible - it often leads to just one big article a month with lots of dead air between. The simple result, and solution, is the introduciton of two shimmering new regular segments to the Al's Music Rant armoury. The intention is to not skimp on the quality of the bigger posts that you've all come to know and love, they'll still be happening. Hopefully though, these new segments will mean I can deliver more consistent, contemporary and relevant content.

      Q: The bottom line?
      A: More Ranty goodness in yr internetz. Capiche?

      'So what are these new segments?' I hear you say quizzically, but with arched brow. Well, dear music lover, the first new segment is a news section. Which does exactly what it says on the tin, it's a music news report. Now I know that there are more resourceful, bigger and better news sites out there - but the aim is just to provide a music news round-up. Just to keep you informed of the more interesting goings on. Or maybe just some links to interesting things that have caught my ears and eyes around the web.
      That, and who can resist a Beatles reference.
      It'll go a little something like this:

      I Heard The News Today, Oh Boy 
      News. Cool. Facts. Information. 'But what is the second brand new section?' I hear you croon. Well, it's a similar round-up, only this time it's a quick look at what Al's Music Rant has been digging latley, what's been tickling the ear drums so to speak. It won't amount to fully-fledged album reviews, but quicker sketches or portraits of some great music. hink of it as a virtual flick through the large stack of CDs that inevitably pile up next to my listening station (re: computer). Please ignore the horrible title, more on that later but it'll be a little something like this:

      What I Have Been Listening To Lately

      Ghoul - Dunks
      The second EP/mini-album from Sydney four-piece Ghoul is the very picture of fresh, exciting music. Triple J's Dom Alessio already nailed it when he called it "like Antony Hegarty meets Radiohead." Particularly on a track like Dreambeat which channels Hail To The Theif-era. Then there's the dark dub atmosphere of 3Mark. Elsewhere The Slip balances experimentalism and engagement with its captivating refrain of "after an honest break". It's all so well-constructed too. Cannot wait to here more from this bunch.

      Alpine - Zürich EP
      The Melbourne-based group clearly have a fascination with Switzerland, but since the band changed their name from Swiss, they've been scaling even greater heights (see what I did there?). The six-piece, led by twin chanteuses Lou and Phoebe, have delivered a collection of five incredibly well-honed songs. Mining atmosphere and chilling pop economy as much as their savvy production and guitar arrangements. If they can come up with equally dashing material for an entire album, they'll be laughing.

      British Sea Power - Valhalla Dancehall
      One of those bands I've always intended to check out, but didn't get around to doing so. Partially due to inexplicably confusing them with Ocean Colour Scene (don't ask...), but their latest album piked my interest proper. Not least due to that evocative title, the resultant contents of which - much like its namesake - is a record of contrasts. For the most part it's a straight-up rock record, with an eye to stadium-filling boasters in the 'Alternative' vein. In other areas though it's a full-blown Pulp revival, particualrly on Luna and Living Is So Easy which feature a similar Jarvis Cocker-esque delivery. Between them is nestled the lilting, atmospheric Baby and penultimate track Once More Now is eleven plus minutes of wafting loveliness.

      James Blake - James Blake
      Although he's been associated with an electronica and dubstep background, what drew me to Blake was that his weightless, auto-tuned voice - crystalline and haunting over warbled bass and fragmented keys - is that it took the template of Bon Iver's Woods and ran with it. His debut album is filled with equally mantric repetition, it's spare minimalism is addictive in a strange way. Tracks like Unluck, Wilhelms Scream and soulful Limit To Your Love build and sway with a cathartic hypnosis rare of someone so young. Trust me, you're going to be hearing a lot more of James Blake in 2011.

      The Hidden Venture - Live At St. Andrews
      "Inspired in equal parts by the stoner riffs of Californian desert rock, the guitar wizardry of Hendrix and also every soul singer who had a story to tell" so goes the Bio for the local four-piece. Emerging from the dissolution of the genre-bending A Planet In Space (previously featured on the rant), they've emerged into a much leaner, tougher beast. Channeling Faith No More's lothario-rock on Certified Diamond and Josh Homme histrionics on Worlds Collide. This live EP is available for free from their website for the meagre price of an email, it's such an energetic set you can almost feel the sweat splashing about as the group lash their instruments into submission.

      so there you have it "Things I've Been Listening To Lately" a rather crap title wouldn't you agree? And not one I'm going to stick with, which brings me to my final and most exciting point. For the first time ever on this humble blog we have....

      You read that right, but first, what you could win. Well aside from the bragging rights of having a section on this very blog named for your talents and wit, I have two of 2010's best Australian EPs up for grabs. Namely, Big Scary's excellent At The Mercy Of The Elements (which you can read up a bit on here) and  The Jezabels' Dark Storm (winner of the coveted Best EP award as part of the 2010 The Good, The Bad & The James Blunt).
      To the victors, the spoils
      All you have to do to win this wonderful prize is come up with a title for my new segment. That's right just think of a better title than "What I Have Been Listening To Lately" and the accolades as well as those CDs above are all yours. Ideally, the title should be a musical reference, maybe a song title or lyric - get creative! 
      All entries must be emailed to me at All entries close on Sunday 20th Feb. Please include your name, mailing address and of course, your awesome suggestion. Tell your family, tell your friends, this is an honest-to-goodness comp.