Levity Liasons

I'm not sure if they've always existed, but the presence of 'fashion bands' seems to be rapidly expanding. These are the bands whose popularity derives not just from the quality of their music, but from the sense that it's somehow cool to like them. It's not the fashion side of things that bothers me. If bands want to dress weird and fans want to copy them, good for them. It's the fact that certain members of these bands seem to think they're so damn hot that they're actually better than others and can do and say whatever they please. What's almost worse is that people keep coming to see these jerks, fueling their egos and widening the gap between their music and their image. Don't do it people! These individuals need help. Watching and supporting them is only going lead to a greater inflation of their sense of self and even more pain when they realise just how shallow they are. Do what's best for them and for the wider musical community. Quietly turn away.

Alright then! Sorry for the rant. The actual topic of today's post are the two bands signed to Levity Records: Mercy Arms and Cut Off Your Hands. Now when a band is signed to a label that grew out of a jeans brand, I can't help but yell "fashion band!" (hence the tie-in). But I know both of these bands from earlier days and I know they are capable of making good music. There is hope. By pure coincidence, I've had the chance to see both these bands in the last week. Did their music stand up on its own or were people just there for the social pages?

Mercy Arms
Cut Off Your Hands

Cut Off Your Hands

Cut Off Your Hands are another band who have been sitting in the back of my consciousness for a while. Hailing from New Zealand, their furious blend of pop music has seen them rise to international fame at great pace. I've always liked their music, but it's never been enough for me to follow them closely. Perhaps it was because I was yet to see them in their element, performing live. Well the other day I got my first chance to see them play and what an interesting experience it was. From the very beginning they were all guns blazing and by this I mean going totally insane. Lead singer, Nick, was jumping of the stage, writhing around the floor, running wherever he found space and even spitting into the crowd (he sure knows how to win fans). And this was all in the first ten minutes! It really was quite an onslaught. But then he either got tired or bored and the rest of the set was played out in a lower (but still insane) gear. It was an ironic reflection of how I feel about their music. Their songs are incredibly catchy, but they lack a certain depth. They are masters of immediacy, grabbing your attention in an instant, but sadly it doesn't last. I think half the problem is that their songs all sound quite similar. Whenever I hear a song in isolation, I think its great. But if I listen to them one after another, they begin to blend together. COYH have plenty of promise, but as it stands, they are a band best enjoyed in short bursts.

Still Fond

Mercy Arms

When I went to see Mercy Arms last Sunday, it was after a long and gradually drift away from their music. Two years ago, I thought they were great. Half Right was a killer track and I was excited to see where they were heading. Unfortunately, apathetic performances, a disappointing EP and a general sense that they were more concerned with their image had begun to turn me off. But I was willing to give them another chance. Hopefully I had been imagining things.

Sadly, their live show did nothing to change my mind. They seemed to go through motions, failing to really capture the audience. Their music may have an experimental nature to it, but that's not an excuse for the lack of connection I felt. Even the songs I knew well failed to have an impact. But it wasn't all bad news. One of the newer songs, where the chorus repeated a girls name (i think it was susana), sounded great and I look forward to hearing it again. But by the same token, another new song, which had Kirin howling and doing spoken word, was just woeful (I'd be quite impressed by his guitar work if he didn't act like such a freak).

Everything good about this band seems to be followed by a 'but'. If only they stopped messing around they might be capable of becoming a great band. I'm yet to hear their new album, though I must admit I'm quite doubtful. The new recording of Half Right is sounding as good as ever, BUT the cover art is atrocious. Lets hope the but stops here.

Half Right


Firekites make some great music. Really great. Their recordings show a band creating soft, intricate sounds that sit nicely alongside the likes of Yo La Tengo. There's so many subtleties in it that every listen offers something new. It's the kind of music that really comes into its own when you pop on some headphones and immerse yourself in it. BUT. There is a problem. Apparently they fail to recreate this atmosphere live. I don't want to judge them before I've seen them personally, but I've heard this from at least three respectable sources. Everything from instruments that are all in the same frequency range, acoustic guitars that fail to cut through and a general inability to physically produce all the necessary sounds have been put forward as possible reasons for the let down. But who knows, maybe these people were just being pedantic or maybe these were one-off issues that have already been attended to. Whatever the case, you can catch them this Sunday (27th July) at The Annandale Hotel and see for yourself. It's an early gig (Cloud Control, the main support, are on at 7pm) and costs just $5. Nice!

Same Suburb Different Park


Apologies for the lack of decent content in the last couple of weeks. I'll make up for it soon, I promise. Maybe. In the meantime, here's a few things I'd like to say.

Youth Group's new album is great. I've been giving it plenty of play time and it's really paying off. I always knew they made beautiful music, but now I know how addictive it can be, once you get to know it. The Night Is Ours is one of those albums where every song is as good as the last.

In My Dreams

The Curse of Company's album, Leo Magnets Joins A Gang, is now out on Dangerbird Records. Read about the band here and visit them there.

Keeping to the Sydney theme, you should all get excited because The Devoted Few will soon be making a return. Their new album is sounding terrific and inside sources say their live show, which they secretly showcased last Thursday, is as good as ever. Download one of their new tracks from their website and look out for some shows (and the album) very soon.

Completely killing the Sydney theme, it's also worth mentioning that Sunny Day Sets Fire, the band who did the impossible, are continuing to impress me. I must admit, some times I feel like I've heard it all before, which could indicate their sound is a rather generic one. But at the same time, I don't care. Every track has it's own personality and they all form a great pop album. I always know I can stick it on and not be disappointed.


Bird Automatic EP

It's been a long, hard road for Sydney band, Bird Automatic, but they have finally arrived with their debut EP. Intitial impressions (and reactions) suggest that it was worth the effort. I've always liked Bird Automatic's live shows. In fact, the last few times I've seen them, they were incredible. But it's always felt like something was missing. Talking to others, it seemed to be that while their music was enjoyable, it failed to make a lasting impression. The songs didn't stand out enough for you to really remember them the next day. But listening to this EP, things are starting to fall into place. It all comes down to their sound being a rather subtle one. The hooks aren't hitting you in the face, but as you listen more frequently, they start to emerge. There are some great indie tracks here that will keep you coming back. They may not be there yet, but I feel like Bird Automatic are on the brink of something big. Keep an eye on them.


Follow Up: The Shiralee

Seeing as I'd already given mention to both of The Red Sun Band's new singles, I thought it might have been a bit overkill if I'd given their album a full review as well. But that won't stop me from telling you its great. It's dark, energetic and an all-round fine local release.

The Eagle

Follow Up: With A Buzz In Our Ear We Play Endlessly

For the very first time, I am in love with a Sigur Ros album. I'm not sure if it's because this album takes a new direction, or if seeing them live has changed my perception or just if I've finally listened to one of their albums long enough to discover its brilliance. Whatever the case, it feels good. I've also come to the conclusion that the best type of singing is Icelandic. I can wale away without concerns for trivial matters such the words. Brilliant. All this is making me very excited for when I get to see them in August. They blew me away when I knew none of their songs. I'm afraid to think what they'll do to me this time round, now that I'm entranced.

ViĆ° spilum endalaust

Melodia - The Vines

I've had a weird experience with The Vines. It includes getting into them late, loving their first album, missing them live, disliking their third album, seeing them live, liking their third album and much more. I had these experiences chronicled over about three paragraphs before I realised you probably didn't care. What really matters is how this new album stands up. With all the drama and distractions out of the way, many (including myself) were hoping that Melodia might see The Vines return to their true form. Unfortunately this doesn't seem to be the case. Yet.

My initial impressions are similar to those I had about Vision Valley. It just seems like generic new material. It's the same sound, the same vibe, and for that reason I like it, but to be honest, it doesn't offer anything new. Most songs whiz by in two minutes and while this has worked in the past, here they lack the hooks to really make an impact. There is some exceptions though. The slower songs reaffirm my belief that The Vines are capable of making great music. At 6 minutes long, 'True As The Night' is a clear standout and draws me in every time. It's just a little too telling when it's followed by a 2 minute screamer called 'Braindead'.

True As The Night

I'm not counting this album out just yet. I think in time I will definitely come to appreciate it more. While it's not the breakthrough we were hoping for, it's a step in the right direction (except for maybe the album art). Decide for yourself. The album is in stores today.

Flying Foxes

Flying Foxes have immense potential. They write great little pop songs that are full of energy and have delightful hooks. That's why it's so disappointing to see them wasting this potential away. You see, their recorded material is filled with a variety of interesting sounds. At times it will be a subtle keyboard riff or perhaps the chiming of a glockenspiel or triangle, but whatever these sounds might be, they're there and they really help to flesh out their music. But when they play live, they lack this. They play as a three-piece which only leaves room for bass, guitar and percussion. This really baffles me. If they included a keyboardist, they could instantly add more flavour to their sound. They occasionally try to make up for this with an iPod, but it just isn't the same. They also play with a heavily distorted bass. Now after watching Dappled show off their new material, I know that this can be used to brilliant effect. But Flying Foxes use it for every song and it quickly gets old. The result of these two issues is a sound that feels dry and empty and falls well short of expectations. I hate to be so negative, because overall, Flying Foxes are great. I'm really looking forward to watching them again and seeing how they've evolved. It's early days yet, so hopefully in time they'll address their issues and really be able to take off.

Lost In Low Cloud (demo)

One things for sure, Flying Foxes know how to put together a good bill. I've been featuring a number of the bands playing as they're all high class. If you're in Sydney this Saturday, don't miss it. See this poster for details.

Deep Sea Arcade

When I first heard Deep Sea Arcade, I was impressed, but felt the Beatles influence was perhaps just a little too obvious. How I came to this conclusion is beyond me. I'm not sure if they've written new material since my first encounter 6 months ago, but listening to them now, a Beatles rip-off band is the last thing I'd use to describe their music. They have a very spaced out sound, slow and subtle in the way it progresses. The echoing vocals and sliding guitars give it nice ambient feel, but at the same time, the melodies really draw you in. In recent months, they've been playing shows all across Sydney and it comes as no surprise that people keep booking them. Their live show is always interesting as lead vocalist, Nic Mckenzie dances about the stage with a slightly eccentric air about him. But what really matters is that the quirky pop songs he's singing are incredibly well written from beginning to end.

Crouch End

Catch them at The Hopetoun Hotel this Saturday.

Songs For Surgery

Songs For Surgery are yet another young Sydney band to emerge in recent months, making up what seems to be a very distinct 'next crop' of local artists. I've only seen them once but it was quite an interesting experience. The first thing I noticed was the number of friends they brought. It was quite an impressive effort for a Monday night. But it was clear that these friends, with their collared shirts and fancy handbags, were the types more likely to be found at a club than an indie establishment such as The Hopetoun Hotel. I'm not judging, I swear..... As you can imagine, I was a little wary when they took to the stage. But I was pleasantly surprised as they launched into a set of edgy rock music that probably went straight over the heads of their friends. This is certainly a band to keep an eye on.


Catch them at The Hopetoun Hotel this Saturday.


Parades are one of those bands that excite you. The bands that make you really appreciate music and in some cases, want to go home and write it yourself. It sounds lame, but if you've ever gone to see a band and spent the whole time with a big grin on your face, you'll know what I mean. What makes this even more special is the fact that Parades have managed to induce this feeling in me so early in their career. They've only been gigging for close to 4 months, yet both times I've managed to catch them, they have impressed me across the board. With both quality and potential on their side, Parades are certainly one to watch.

Shut Up And Be Young
This is the song they've put out to radio and would probably be their most single-like. This statement in itself demonstrates that they're not all about nicely packaged pop hooks, instead opting for a darker, more complex sound. Their music definitely has a distinct Kid A feel to it.

The Replicant
I like this song because it really highlights the strength of their multiple vocalists. After listening to Fleet Foxes, you can never underestimate the importance of a good voice (or three).

I must admit that their recorded material doesn't excite me quite like their live show. But I think when it comes to an emerging band, thats not a problem. It's all about immersing yourself in the energy that comes with being so fresh. Last time I saw them, I was really impressed by their powerful last song. Turns out it was written that day, just so they had enough material for a 40 minute set. I can't wait to see how they evolve.

Keep an eye out for their debut EP which is due to arrive very soon.

GIG PICK: Flying Foxes ++

I have been looking forward to this gig for quite a while now. However, my excitement was somewhat dimmed yesterday when I discovered that there had been a change to the lineup. Instead of Parades, Des Miller would be playing on the night. This is rather disappointing considering I was gearing up to write about each of these bands, culminating with a declaration that Parades were the next big thing. But I think I'll go ahead with it anyway. Parades are still great and this gig is still very much worth your while. Read the posts as they come staggering in to find out why.

Flying Foxes
Deep Sea Arcade
Songs For Surgery

Impressions: Fleet Foxes

Fleet Foxes have been getting plenty of hype of late. They've had Pitchfork reviews, a widely featured album and just about every type of positive press a band could hope for. Well it's taken me a while to work out why. As I played through their self-titled album, I certainly heard potential, but nothing that would incite such universal loving. That was, of course, until I sat down with the song below and gave it a long hard listen. I was finally able to see the true beauty emerge. Strong, layered vocals, weaving in and out of one another, building momentum as they go. Soft, smooth backing vocals, carrying the song with a warm calmness. It just goes to show, that when used right, the voice is music's most powerful tool. I suspect that as I give them more and more attention, Fleet Foxes will find their place amongst the likes of Grizzly Bear and Midlake, with a sound so rich in texture, it blows you away.

Warm Winter Hymnal


Once upon a time there lived a band called The Unicorns. They made strange and beautiful music. But like so many good things, they died far too young. Music lovers across the world mourned their death until one day, out of the ashes, a new band was born. That band was called Islands, and while they were different in many ways, they kept alive the spark that made The Unicorns so special.

OK, enough of the romantic narrative. The emergence of Islands was indeed an exciting time. For the Unicorns fans amongst us, it promised a continuing source of their quirky pop music. That was, more or less, what we got. Islands debut album, Return To The Sea, was a mixed bag of goodies, featuring everything from a rap battle to an epic 9-minute opening track. While it wasn't groundbreaking, it was a heap of fun and certainly proved that The Unicorns' spark was alive and kicking.

Two years later, they have returned with their second album, Arm's Way. I've actually had it for well over a month, but it's taken me this long to work out how I feel about it. In the end, it appears the band has broken free of their Unicorn origins and really established themselves as a separate entity. Now if you've been reading the above paragraphs, you may take this to be a bad thing, but I think it's for the best. Whereas the first album was hit and miss, this one consistently delivers. When you stop and think about it, it sounds little like The Unicorns, but this is irrelevant. It is still fun, intelligent pop music that's well worth a listen.


And if you're interested, you should still check out their first album as it definitely has its moments, including this brilliant opener that I mentioned eariler:

Swans (Life After Death)