Record review: Split Seconds – You’ll Turn Into Me (2012, LP)

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Perth indie-rock quintet Split Seconds have been hovering on our musical radar for two years, and finally their debut album has landed, putting an end to what seemed like an excruciating wait. Their first eponymous EP came out last year, showcasing the band’s straightforward, catchy guitar pop and deliciously off-kilter lyrics, but have they managed to improve on that initial effort with this record? The answer is a definite yes, with bells on, as the ‘60s-flavoured pop melodies, manly harmonies, and storytelling talents of songwriter Sean Pollard combine to make an impressive debut. Opener ‘Security Light’ has Pollard announcing “Thursday is a bad day, because I go to war with anyone, for the smallest little thing,” before summing up the worker’s plight with “three days, two days, one day, till a holiday, it’s just a weekend.” The impossibly-catchy guitar lines and sing-along chorus of single ‘All You Gotta Do’ has garnered the band plenty of attention on national radio, while the prickly pop of ‘Top Floor’ sees Pollard berating two backpackers on the upper deck of a London bus who can’t keep their hands off each other. ‘She Makes Her Own Clothes’ and ‘Maiden Name’ show there is depth to the band’s sentiments, and they’re not averse to a love song with Amanda, although it could be about a girl or a subtle reference to a footy team; it’s hard to tell. There’s an intelligence behind these songs that’s rare in modern pop, and that alone makes this album worth a spin. (Inertia)

Record review: Love Like Hate – Rabbit Hole (2012, EP)

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Vocalist/guitarist Heather Cheketri and pianist Sonja Ter Horst are Love Like Hate; a Brisbane band like no other. Describing themselves as ‘dark pop’, the duo have been making quite a name for themselves with their trademark blend of intense, theatrical post-punk. Rabbit Hole – the band’s debut EP – recalls the spirit of such femme fatales as Patti Smith and PJ Harvey in a stirring five-track hit; all tales of love and loss set to the sound of rock guitars and creepy keys. Opener ‘Porcelain Brothel’ broods and crawls before upping the volume with a plethora of cascading piano, as Cheketri’s melancholy yet powerful lyrics describe the emptiness of a failed relationship. ‘Bleed’ comes out of the traps with an undeniable hint of ‘90s alt-rock, as the girls discover the joys of snare drums and rocking out, and again it’s Ter Horst’s piano mastery that drives the song. The title track is next, providing an epic pop ballad moment that channels Sinead O’Connor and allows Cheketri to flaunt her vocal range, before ‘Not My Heart’ continues the drama with soaring guitars and plenty of ominous, ringing keys. Closer ’21’ continues in a similar vein with some ghostly synth thrown in for good measure, bringing an emotional and compelling EP to a close. Sure, it might be the type of music you’ll only ever listen to with nothing but a bottle of wine and your cat for company, but what the hell – it sounds pretty damn good. (Independent)

Record review: Loon Lake – Thirty Three (2012, EP)

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Melbourne indie five-piece Loon Lake are one of those bands who make you feel like you could – or perhaps should – be in a band yourself; they make playing upbeat pop songs look and sound so easy. After convincing yourself you can write the next chart-topper, digging out that dusty old acoustic guitar from your closet, then quickly realising that you can’t play a single note, you’ll return to their EP with even more respect for its catchy simplicity. It might have taken a year to put together, but Thirty Three – the band’s second EP – has a fresh and laidback feel; like it was knocked together in the time it took for the barbecue to warm up. Opener ‘The Week’ is a great start, building from a delicate combination of bass drum and softly-spoken vocals, to a near-shouted chorus and stylish guitar solo. ‘Bad To Me’ is catchy and danceable, despite acerbic lines like “all you do is lie to me, make my life a misery.” Proving they’re no one-trick pony, closer ‘Heart Stomper’ is an epic rock ballad that could only be improved if Slash was in the video playing the solo in a desert. Single ‘Cherry Lips’ has had plenty of national airplay and is probably the best track on the EP, and one which singer Sam Nolan recently claimed was written in two minutes flat. Maybe I’ll give that old guitar another chance. (Shock Entertainment)

Record review: Laneway – Turn Your Love Up (2012, LP)

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Gold Coast folk-country duo Louise O’Reilly and Paul Hannan are on a bit of a roll, to say the least. To bag the prestigious Grant McLennan Fellowship award for songwriting – and the $25,000 bounty that goes with it – in the same week their second album is released must be quite a shot in the arm for a band still working day jobs to support their musical ambitions. A first listen of Turn Your Love Up proves the plaudits are deserved; Hannan’s impressive gothic guitar twang, O’Reilly’s understated vocals, and a slew of sorrowful tales of lost love combine to make an appealing sound that sticks in your head. Single ‘Love Is A Devil’ sees O‘Reilly announcing “Getting to know you was quite a battle, trying to lose you is another matter,” before Hannan threatens to unleash a devastating solo. ‘Bleeding Heart’ is gently mournful and showcases the duo’s well-worked harmonies, while the more upbeat ‘Waiting For An Avalanche’ shows they can do snappy pop when they set their minds to it. Elsewhere the bittersweet ‘The Past Is Furious’ rattles and stomps with surprising force, before ‘I Saw’ sees them finish with another slice of brooding folk melancholia. With the added exposure of being award winners, an upcoming national tour, and now a new album that showcases a significant step forward in songwriting for the Gold Coast band, leaving the day jobs behind surely can’t be too far away. (Crawler Records)

Record review: Joey Ramone – …ya know? (2012, LP)

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How a near-mute, beanpole outcast with a crippling case of OCD became one of the most influential front men in the history of popular music is a fascinating story. The fact that this album – the second posthumous release of Joey Ramone songs since his death from lymphoma in 2001 – ever saw the light of day is equally remarkable. Despite being pieced together over a number of years from various demos and old cassette tapes before being finished off with help from Joan Jett and Steven Van Zandt, …ya know? sounds remarkably cohesive and brims with frantic punk anthems and hints of Joey’s obvious influences; Elvis, the Beach Boys, and the Stooges. The buzz-saw guitar on opener ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Is The Answer’ sounds as good as anything on any of the classic Ramones albums, before the album reveals itself to be a much more eclectic mix than anything Joey did previously. ‘Waiting For That Railroad’ is an acoustic ballad, ‘What Did I Do To Deserve You’ drips with pop harmonies, while old Ramones number ‘Merry Christmas (I Don’t Wanna Fight Tonight)’ is reworked as a heart-wrenching, sentimental song that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Paul McCartney album. There is a feeling that – freed from the stylistic constraints of being a Ramone – Joey was able to immerse himself in the sounds of the bands he loved growing up, without straying too far from the crunching punk sound he helped make famous. This album is as unflinching and committed as ever; making sure Joey Ramone remains the king of punk.

Record review: Hey Geronimo – Hey Geronimo (2012, EP)

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Supergroups tend to be put together by the types of musicians who hail from the harder side of the rock spectrum – the likes of Dave Grohl, Slash, or Lemmy – but now Australian indie-pop is cutting in on their action in the form of Brisbane five-piece Hey Geronimo. Comprised of various members of local acts The Boat People, Blame Ringo!, and Montpelier, Hey Geronimo play addictively-catchy, hook-laden pop-rock, and bring the summery good times and positive vibes by the truck load on this debut EP. Its all-too-brief fifteen minutes pack plenty in; there are hints of Beach Boys melodies, Vampire Weekend guitars, and Ball Park Music quirkiness sprinkled liberally throughout. Any song that starts with a chorus in the form of a question is ok by me, as opener ‘Why Don’t We Do Something?’ shows itself to be instantly infectious. Stuffed full of sing-along lyrics, deft harmonies, and honky-tonk piano, it explodes into life and makes you want to pogo like an idiot and knock over someone’s drink. If you think that’s enough of a risk to your street cred, then ‘Carbon Affair’ will have you reconsidering, as it’s even catchier again; except this time you’ll be pogoing, spilling drinks, and busting out your goofiest air guitar moves. ‘Dreamboat Jack’ channels Weezer, ‘I Got No Money’ combines fuzzy guitar with snappy handclaps, and closer ‘Co-Op Bookshop’ could be an early Lennon/McCartney B-side. As Brisbane continues to churn out top drawer indie bands, this EP puts Hey Geronimo up there with the best.

Record review: The Future of the Left – The Plot Against Common Sense (2012, LP)

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This third album from alt-rockers Future of the Left sees the Welsh band branching out in exciting new ways and expanding their sound; so much so that it could almost be called a breakthrough. Despite being comprehensively trashed by Pitchfork – a review that earned a fierce rebuttal from singer-guitarist Andy ‘Falco’ Falkous on the band’s website – this synth-infused album full of ominous post-hardcore riffs and dark subject matter seems set to earn them a heap of new fans. The addition of a fourth member in Melbourne’s Julia Ruzicka on bass sees the band fattening their sound and exploring new sonic avenues, while Falco’s lyrics are as sarcastic as ever; “I have looked into the future, everyone is slightly older” on ‘Cosmo’s Ladder’ being the best example. He can be found having a pop at Johnny Depp, Billy Corgan, Russell Brand and Chumbawamba at various points, and clearly really means it. On a side note, there are also some of the best song titles around today: ‘Sheena Is A T-shirt Salesman’, ‘Sorry Dad, I Was Late For The Riots’ and ‘Robocop 4 – Fuck Off Robocop’ being the most interesting. Closer ‘Notes On Achieving Orbit’ is the perfect way to finish, its hugely abrasive riffs and Falco’s throaty screaming making sure the album finishes on a high. At fifty minutes it’s probably a touch on the long side, and the less said about the production the better, but overall this is undoubtedly Future of the Left’s best album to date. (Remote Control Records)

Record review: Friends – Manifest! (2012, LP)

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“I wanna be your friend” sings Samantha Urbani on opener ‘Friend Crush’, but after one look at the album sleeve you know that’s something that would never happen. New York’s Friends are one of the latest ‘it’ bands who look like they belong in a Coke advert, frolicking on the beach and looking more impossibly perfect than most of us could ever realistically hope to be. But do they have the tunes to back up the style? The answer their debut albums throws up is probably more no than yes. Singles ‘I’m His Girl’ and ‘Friend Crush’ are so annoyingly catchy that you’ll have to slap yourself across the face after six hours of singing them to yourself, but they are two high points that the rest of the album doesn’t come close to matching. There are elements of disco, funk, pop, and electro thrown into the mix, giving Manifest! a somewhat disjointed feeling, and many of the songs are underdone to the point of laziness; ‘Ruins’ being the worst example. The one recurring theme is simplicity, with much of the album consisting of nothing more than a Talking Heads-esque bass line, some basic keyboard tingling or sparse percussive taps, and Urbani’s appealing voice, but the overall feeling from this album is one of style over substance. There are flashes of summer-y good-time sounds for sure, but they’re much too few and far between. (Lucky Number Music)

Record review: Crocodiles – Endless Flowers (2012, LP)

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San Diego indie rockers Crocodiles are a band whose musical output has steadily improved since their formation in 2008. Having recorded their first two albums as a duo before adding three new members and decamping to Berlin to make Endless Flowers, they could never be accused of playing things safe. More refined than the scuzzy punk and psychedelia of previous efforts, album three is chock-full of lo-fi fuzz, noise-rock, power-pop anthems, and more sunny melodies than you can shake a dirty stick at. If The Cure and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart had a baby, it would be hooky second track ‘Sunday (Psychic Conversation #9)’, the distortion on its shoe gaze-y guitars turned up to eleven as front man Brandon Welchez lays on the sentiment in his trademark slacker drawl. The lovesick groove of ‘No Black Clouds For Dee Dee’ proves they can still blend genres with aplomb, as Welchez’s wife Dee Dee Penny (of Dum Dum Girls fame) is serenaded with the brilliantly nonsensical “oh my girl, yes i’m gonna, slowly turn my insides citrus over you.” The sneering vocals and deranged guitars on ‘My Surfing Lucifer’ hark back to earlier Crocodiles releases, while the feedback on late-album highlight ‘Welcome Trouble’ will threaten to obliterate your speakers. It’s exciting to see the band take such a big step forward in terms of songwriting and musicianship, with the additional members helping to fatten out the sound. Where they will go to next is anyone’s guess, but if Crocodiles keep improving at this rate, indie-rock world domination awaits. (Shock Entertainment)

Record review: The Cast of Cheers – Family (2012, LP)

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Family is important to the Irish, which is perhaps why brothers Conor and Neil Adams formed The Cast of Cheers together, and then used their considerable skills to make one of the best indie albums of this year. Combining the best elements of math-rock and frenetic punk-pop, this ten-track debut studio album from the Dublin collective will have you grinning, then dancing, then grinning some more. Opener ‘Family’ is a great start; it’s catchy, urgent and downright cool, before ‘Pocé Mit’ and ‘Human Elevator’ continue the good times with classic simplicity – the latter using stylish synth riffs among the quirky Bloc Party-esque guitar tinkling. Single ‘Animals’ is understated yet classy and just begs to be let loose at a summer festival, and elsewhere ‘Marso Sava’ slows the pace down yet retains the infectious pop style. You might be thinking this band sounds like a one-trick pony – but that couldn‘t be more wrong. There is enough of a variety of sounds here to keep you dancing until you drop. Every note is meaningful, every vocal yelp adds something, and nothing is wasted as the four-piece roll out track after track of catchy, positive vibes. Forget U2 – with an incendiary live show and now an excellent album to match, The Cast of Cheers are one of the Emerald Isle’s best. (School Boy Error)

Record review: Velociraptor – The World Warriors (2012, EP)

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Velociraptor are well-known in the Brisbane music scene for their party-starting garage-pop and chaotic live shows. Ranging anywhere from a seven to a twelve-piece, they have even spawned another band in thrashers DZ Deathrays, who have thus far eclipsed their bandmates by releasing an internationally acclaimed debut album and touring across Europe and the States. The World Warriors – Velociraptor’s second release since 2011’s eponymous debut – gives them a chance to reclaim some of the limelight for themselves. At just twenty-three minutes it is fun-sized and fun-filled, and drips with influences ranging from the surf pop harmonies of the Beach Boys to the urgent garage rock of the Hives. Infectious to the point of making you want to dance whether you’re listening to it quietly on the train or walking down the street, it is a record bursting with good times and the joys of being willing to start a party at the drop of a hat. Opener ‘Cynthia’ sees frontman Jeremy Neale serenading his girl in his trademark croon like the best of the ‘60s boy groups, while in ‘Do The Ruby’ he’s howling like a banshee over some delightfully brutal riffs. Current single ‘Riot’ features what seems like all twelve members screaming the chorus at the top of their lungs, and closer ‘Surf City Raptors’ is their most obvious nod to their favourite groups. With The World Warriors, Velociraptor have grabbed hold of the limelight once more, and don’t look like letting go any time soon. (Create/Control)

Record review: Two Door Cinema Club – Beacon (2012, LP)

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For a small country Northern Ireland has produced some top recording artists. Van Morrison, the Undertones, and Snow Patrol all cut their teeth in the bars of Belfast before cracking the charts, but indie-pop three-piece Two Door Cinema Club have taken a less conventional route. After forming as a trio and playing live shows with a laptop in place of a drummer, they signed to boutique French label Kitsuné and released their 2010 debut to critical and commercial acclaim, while setting dance floors alight with their catchy pop-rock tunes. Much like that record, Beacon is full of romantic lyrics, jaunty drumming, and angular riffs. It’s a more mature sound for the young band, with much of the subject matter being about the loneliness of the road, and while it’s less direct than its predecessor, the band’s collective rise in confidence pushes them to try new things. Opener ‘Next Year’ is reflective without being downbeat, with singer Alex Trimble’s charming brogue shining through, while the unexpected female harmonies and orchestral backdrop on ‘The World Is Watching’ (With Valentina) have a soaring elegance that belie the bands’ tender years. ‘Wake Up’ begins with some ferociously funky bass lines before unleashing a multitude of laser-like synths, and ‘Someday’ barrels forwards with urgent guitars galore. Having a recent American concert booked out by President Obama shows how far Two Door Cinema Club have come, and in Beacon, they have an album that will only serve to cement their reputation as top-notch tunemakers. (Kitsuné Music)

Record review: The Rubens – The Rubens (2012, LP)

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Despite only existing for a little over eighteen months, The Rubens have gained a massive following; a result of being such accomplished purveyors of a new brand of bluesy, soul-drenched indie-rock, exemplified by their breakout single Lay It Down. With such instant acclaim comes a huge weight of expectation, which the Menangle four-piece have managed to sidestep effortlessly with this instantly-classy debut record. Sounding from the get-go like a mix of the best parts of the Black Keys, Rolling Stones, and the Doors, this is a collection of songs that follow the blueprint of ‘Lay It Down’ and second single ‘My Gun’; all retro rock guitars, vintage keys, and soulful vocals. Opening with a smattering of mournful piano on ‘The Best We Got’, before breaking into My Gun and the supremely bluesy ‘Lay It Down’, the group of three brothers and a childhood friend have a laidback groove that you would expect to hear from a band that has been playing together for decades, not since last year. There are dark moments too, specifically on the brooding Elvis and smouldering ‘I’ll Surely Die’, while fast-paced late-album highlight ‘Don’t Want To Be Found’ sounds like it could get audiences jumping by the first few bars. The quality of production may leave you wondering why the sound is a little muted when it should perhaps have been allowed to be let loose, but ultimately the song-writing mastery shines through on what is a fine debut effort. (Ivy League)

Record review: The Raveonettes – Observator (2012, LP)

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The news of a new Raveonettes release has never made me want to double-time it to the record store and part with a sizeable wad of my hard-earned cash. In fact, up to now, the biggest reaction you’d be likely to hear from me regarding the Danish duo’s music would be a half-arsed “meh”. They’ve always been one of those bands I’m happy to let slip under my musical radar so not to waste time that could be spent listening to the Strokes or the latest indie-rock flavour of the month. But lo and behold, eleven years after their formation, they have finally grabbed my attention with sixth album Observator. If you’re a long-time fan, you’ll recognise all the band’s trademarks: lo-fi gothic fuzz, classic pop structures, a skewed vision of modern relationships, and a thinly-veiled Velvet Underground obsession. What you’ll also find is a cohesion lacking in other Raveonettes releases, and a willingness to chuck in a few new instruments, with impressive effect. Opener ‘Young and Cold’ is a slow start, evoking images of walking home alone in the rain with the weight of the world on your shoulders. ‘The Enemy’, ‘Downtown’ and ‘She Owns The Streets’ showcase their ability to write the darkest of dark pop, while the gothic keys on the title track work nicely with Sune Rose Wagner’s gloomy guitar lines, before ‘Sinking With The Sun’ ups the tempo and proves they can still rock out. For the first time, it seems that the Raveonettes aren’t trying to sound anyone else, and are happy sounding like themselves. In this case, that can only be a good thing. (Vice)

Record review: Winter People – A Year At Sea (2012, LP)

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Describing themselves as ‘post-industrial folk-rock’, Sydney’s Winter People make quite a variety of sounds on this debut long-player. As their name suggests, it isn’t summery pop music; but a grandiose, shiver-inducing set of songs on a level of scope and imagination bordering on majestic. A Year At Sea is an apt title, the band sounding so far removed from any current musical trend or style; The National are probably the only perceivable influence at work here. Boasting two violinists, five vocalists, and led by frontman Dylan Baskind’s understated vocals, the six-piece go from galloping folk-pop on ‘Gallons’, to mournful Western-tinged themes on ‘Valley Hymn’, and then a touch of brooding theatrics on ‘Afternoon Amnesiac’. The instrumentation is of the very highest quality throughout, as the songs are built up from bare vocals and single violins to epic, sprawling soundscapes filled with powerful drumming, pent-up emotion, and an unmistakeable originality. Closer ‘The Antidote’ is the perfect example of everything Winter People are capable of, starting with a solemn choral arrangement before adding layers of soaring strings and boy-girl harmonies, as an impressive amount of sustain is wrung out of an electric guitar. The vocal harmonies and violin plucking peppered throughout have a stirring beauty and mournful intrigue that reveal a little more on each listen, making this an album that is just as adept at evoking imagery of bleak landscapes in wintertime as it is at making you want to nod your head in enjoyment. If there is any justice in the world, these guys will be massive. (Hub The Label)