Youth Group: New album

Today sees the release of Youth Group's fourth album, The Night Is Ours. You can hear the entire thing over at their myspace page, but get in quick because it probably won't last. The first single taken from it, Two Sides, is a brilliant track and a great way to kick off the new album. After a few spins, I'd say the rest isn't quite at that same high standard, but it certainly comes together to form a solid album. In time, it will only get better.

Youth Group are in the interesting position of being indie favourites who happened to make it big (courtesy of The O.C.). But whichever crowd you belong to, you shouldn't be dismissing this band. Their powerful song-writing, combined with Toby Martin's rich vocals make for some very moving music. I recently saw them perform the track which will likely become their next single, All This Will Pass. Despite being without a drummer, it demonstrated their live energy and added an extra bit of meaning to this song. If you're in Sydney or Melbourne, definitely try to catch them when they come through in late July.

All This Will Pass

Dappled. Kids.

To be honest, the underage music scene in Sydney is quite pathetic. You see the occasional punk and emo gigs, or perhaps a big international act will play an all ages show, but as far as regular bands go, the ones I'm seeing each and every week, the kids get nothing. On one hand, this is great for us adults, but when you consider that their impressionable young minds are being lost to the likes of Panic At The Disco, it's cause for concern.

That's why this upcoming gig is so good. I couldn't think of a better band than Dappled Cities to win the hearts of our little brothers and sisters and lead them on a path to better musical taste. Not only that, but there's a nice selection of supports too. The Seabellies are great band who I've mentioned many times before, and as for Papa vs Pretty, I couldn't hold a higher regard. Still underage themselves, I'm blown away each time I see them. You can download their new single below, but regardless of what you think of it, you should make every effort to see them live. It's amazing.

Citizen No 1

Also, here's the video to their last track, which demonstrates some of their more electronic influences. At first I wasn't a fan, favouring the more guitar-centered sound of their shows, but this has really grown on me.

For the big kids amongst us, Dappled are also playing a show on June 27 (this friday) at The Annandale Hotel. These are their last shows before they hit the studio to record their third album. After hearing many of these songs previewed at their last show, it certainly seems like something to look forward to. No mp3's at this stage so you'll have to go watch them if you want a taste.

Songbird. Get excited.

I think it's time to take a break from the usual music recommendations and turn to something equally important: music software. It is, after all, the bridge between ourselves and our music in this digital age. Personally, I'm not attached to any one program, largely because my habit of constantly rearranging my files doesn't really suit library-based systems. But if I was to pick one, I'd have to go for Media Monkey, with it's brilliantly simple organising abilities.

However, with the arrival of Songbird, it might be time to give up my nomadic days and settle in the comfort of just one player. Its features are just too damn good to resist. For those who don't know, Songbird is a hybrid media player and web browser. In simple terms, it's pretty much iTunes and Firefox rolled into one nice product. This might seem rather pointless, but just wait till you see what this baby can do.

(click for a bigger view)

The media player functionality starts off simple and is based heavily around iTunes. It can do everything iTunes can, including loading songs onto an iPod (or similar) and even playing protected files bought from a digital store. This basic functionality can then be expanded through the use of add-ons (think Firefox extensions). This allows you to add things such as a play queue, support, cover flow and much more. One extension will automatically load information about the artist you are playing, such as photos, gigs, lyrics and a bio and display it nicely under your browser.

All in all, it does the trick in the media player department. And with the ability for users to create their own add-ons, functionality will quickly expand. But it is the web browser capabilities where the fun really begins.

As you can see in the above screenshot, you can visit websites from within Songbird, just like a normal browser. But when you stumble upon an mp3 blog such as this one, it automatically finds all the audio files and displays them nicely in a tab underneath. From here, you can play them as if they're in your library or download them for later enjoyment!

Anything you download is placed in a playlist where you can watch its progress and listen to it when done. It's also automatically added to your library, which goes to show how nice it is having one program handling everything. This really is great for anyone who frequents the mp3 blogosphere, making music discovery a breeze. It does have the occasional problem, where it doesn't pick up on dead links, and you're left waiting for a non-existent file to start playing, but otherwise it's great. And if you're a hype machine user, there's more to come....

Songbird is designed so that websites can be made to display extra content when viewed with it. The Hype Machine is the first website to properly implement this and it works a treat. On any page, it finds all the music files for you to easily stream, but also gives you a host of links for each. For the purchasing types, you have links to iTunes, eMusic and more, and for the thieving types, you can quickly jump to the relevant post.

Just to make sure I get the attention of you machiners out there, I thought now would be the appropriate time to share a track I'm loving ( subtle). It's by Brooklyn-based Yeasayer, who make some very powerful music (as you may already know).


Now I would hope that everything above has you more than convinced, but I thought I'd mention one last cool thing about this brilliant piece of software (I'm not a nerd, I swear.....). Music blogs aren't the only thing that's enhanced when browsing with Songbird. Someone has created an extension called YouPlayer which is a must for any YouTube fans out there. It allows you to drag videos into the sidebar, so they play one after another while you continue browsing. Not only this, but you can download the files with a simple click to be played on your computer at a later date! The files are in flash video format, but will work on a player like Media Player Classic (which I also recommend!). I don't know how often you'd want to do this but it sure does seem cool.

After all this ranting and raving, I should probably add a disclaimer. This software is in the early stages of development, so doesn't always work as it should. However, it's stable enough to be enjoyed so don't shy away. With in-built expandability and developers who appreciate what music listeners want, Songbird is a very promising program that is sure to be a hit with music lovers. Download it here.

Sunny Day Sets Fire - Summer Palace

There are two things in life that just never seem to happen.

a) I never like an album the first time I hear it. I seem to operate on familiarity. I need to get to know the songs before I can decide whether I like them or not.

b) I never like any of the music that gets sent to me in the countless promo emails I receive. Granted, I don't actually listen to 90% of it, but I've almost given up hope. Something about being told something is good mustn't sit right.

That's why this album is so weird. I got an email, saw the word indie-pop, saw the word full stream and thought to myself "yeah, why not eh?". What ensued was one of the best first-time listens I've had in a good while. Something about Sunny Day Sets Fire's music must have been quite engaging, because it left quite an impression. I've already forgotten what it sounded like but I remember it was good! I'm avoiding the second listen, not just because I had to share this momentous occasion immediately, but also because I don't want to ruin the image. Is it really a great album or am I imagining things........

Stream it for yourself here.

Or for the downloading types, here's an mp3 for your consumption:


Mates of State - Re-Arrange Us (2008)

You'd be amazed by how many times this has happened. I've gone to write about an album that has disappointed me, for one reason or another, and upon giving it one final listen, discovered I actually really like it. It's quite absurd. I never seem to learn that it takes me time to appreciate most albums. Days ago I was getting all prepared to explain how the new Mates of State album was a major step backwards from their debut. It was just a manufactured rehashing of their charming sound, devoid of it's own character. Yet now I come here saying it's great.

I think part of the problem was that I had an idealistic image of their first album in my mind. It had been a long time since I'd heard it, and it would appear my imagination went a bit wild. Comparing them now, the new album holds up just as well. It's significantly more polished, something which suits their sound perfectly and as for the lack character, this was really down to unfamiliarity. Once you get to know these tracks, they are just as charming as the old ones, if not more so. It's still not perfect though. At times I can find it annoying, but then I'll be yelling the words, so who knows. Either way, Mates of State have returned with another solid album. It's unashamedly cute and will cut straight to your deep-seeded desire for sing-along pop (eventually).

The Re-Arranger

The radio aint that bad...

Finding a good radio station is quite a challenge these days. Sadly, there doesn't seem to be any out there that I can rely on consistently. However, that's no reason to give up. Radio is still a great way to discover new music and today it delivered. Thanks Toby.

It Was by Animals Talking

I'm not saying this song is groundbreaking or anything like that, but hearing it played was rather refreshing. It feels light and free flowing, which gives it a sort of uplifting vibe. Animals Talking are a relatively new band out of London which I'll happily admit I know nothing about. But if this song is any indication, we might be hearing a lot more soon.

Good hip-hop. Huh?

I must admit that I'm not the biggest supporter of Aussie hip-hop. Not that I'm ashamed of this. Most of it is terrible as far as I'm concerned. But every now and then something pops up that grabs my attention. This song by The Herd is a prime example. It's got some great melodies and lyrics that I can get into. It feels weird saying this, but it's a great song! Perhaps if hip-hop was more along these lines, I wouldn't be such a hater.

The King Is Dead - The Herd

GIG PICK: Homebake Incentive Round Final

If you live in Sydney and like hearing great music from emerging local talent, be sure to make your way to The Hopetoun Hotel this Monday, June 16th. For only $6, you'll be treated to sets from Bird Automatic, Papa vs Pretty, Hypertonic and Seekae. Monday is never an ideal night to be going out, but in this case, an exception should certainly be made.

The Homebake Incentive program is more or less a band comp, with a new selection of up and coming bands hitting the stage every Monday night. Some are great, some are woeful. There is, of course, plenty of incentive, with the winning band getting a spot at Homebake and an EP recorded with EMI. This Monday is the 'round final', which features the best four bands from the past three months, competing for a spot in the grand final.

I couldn't really find any mp3's that did these bands justice, but there's plenty of listening material on their respective myspace pages. Even if none of their recorded material grabs you, I'd still recommend coming along. I've seen three of these bands and each has a very strong live show.

Bird Automatic would have to be one of Sydney's most under-appreciated bands. They've got great music and style to match, but just can't seem to break through. The last two times I saw them, they were incredible. They just need to translate this into some radio love.

Despite playing together for close to two years, these guys still aren't 18. They've been relatively low key up until now, but it looks like their fortunes are changing. They played with Malcolm Middleton, are scheduled to support Dappled and reportedly, Richard Kingsmill is coming to watch them at this very show. Explosion is imminent.

Hypertonic are another young band who don't seem to be reaching their potential. Their Sonic Youth inspired rock is great to watch live, but no one seems to know about them! However, all is not lost. They've finally updated their myspace with some new material, so hopefully they're due for a revival.

This band was formerly known as Commander Keen. I'm not sure if I've seen them or not, but either way, I know little about them. Their sound on myspace has a distinct electronic influence and I'm interested to see how it translates live.

Doors open at 8. Details on The Hopetoun Hotel can be found here.

New Sigur Ros

Sigur Ros are certainly creating quite a stir at the moment. They're heading out here for Splendour in the Grass, they've put out a single that deviates significantly significantly from their traditional formula and they're offering free streaming of their soon-to-be-released album. It's almost to good to be true!

The single in question, Gobbledigook, is behind much of the buzz. Not only is it a 'song', in traditional structure terms, but it's also a 'single', perfectly suited for radio play. Now to the uninformed, this might seem rather unspectacular, but to anyone who knows Sigur Ros, it's BIG. I personally love it. I've always found their recorded work distant, but with this track, it's engaging. Very refreshing indeed.


However, early indications would suggest that this song is an exception. The rest of their new album, titled Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, appears to stay true to their traditional sound. I think this is a good thing. When you hear these guys live, you'll know what I mean. Listen to the album on their website, or to a better quality version

As I mentioned, Sigur Ros are coming out for Splendour in the Grass, as well as a sideshow. Get excited. Whatever you do, don't miss out on seeing one of these shows. When I saw them about a year ago, I was blown away. It was at a festival, I was standing on a slope and I knew none of their music, yet it still rates as one of the greatest shows of my life. The power and spectacle of their performance is amazing. See them before its too late. You won't regret it.

The Curse of Company

The thought of a band containing Dave Rennick (Dappled Cities), Sarah Kelly (The Red Sun Band) and Tim Rogers (Jack Ladder) is rather enticing for anyone who enjoys the Sydney music scene. But when these three (and others) combine to become The Curse of Company, a whole new sound is born. Some might find this disappointing, but I think it's quite refreshing. Rather than me attempting to describe this new sound of theirs (and just pulling fancy words out of thin air), you can have a listen to their current single below.

All The Mines

The whole concept of this band seems to be shrouded in mystery. There's a lavish back story, complete with colourful characters and perilous adventures, and a continuing tale that unfolds as the album progresses. It's an intriguing approach and adds extra level of interest to those fans who like their bonus content. It's all very nicely contained in their website, which lets you explore this content (literally), by dragging bits and pieces across the screen. It's suprisingly fun. There's also some free downloads up there if you're savvy enough to find them.

While I like their recorded stuff, seeing them live added a whole new dimension. They launched their single the other day and it was a very enjoyable show. They're all seasoned performers, but seeing them go so well in their first show as a group suggests good things to come. They have an album which will be arriving later in the year and you should definitely consider seeing them next time they swing through. Here is a live recording to tide you over till then.

White Clothes


About a year ago, I came across MGMT on a music blog somewhere. The song I heard was Time To Pretend and while I thought it was good, it wasn't enough to make me want more. I seem to remember the reviewer writing them off as a bit off joke band, not being all that serious about their music, and I guess that image just stuck in my head. I certainly didn't expect to hear from them again. That's why it came as such a shock to see posters appearing all over town saying nothing but "Who Is MGMT?". They summed up my thoughts rather well. Who were this band? Clearly they weren't the deadbeats I'd come to think they were.

It's about the same time that they're song, Kids, started making its way onto the radio in a big way. I'm sure it's been floating around for a very long time, but it's only now that I've properly discovered it. All I can say is wow. There's something subtly infectious about this song that really draws me in. The keyboard riff that plays throughout is so simple and yet so effective. And when combined with the drum beat, it makes me wanna move everytime I hear it. I don't know what others think of this track, but I love it.


MGMT also have an album out, Oracular Spectacular, but I don't know if I can recommend it. It's a bit weird and too inconsistent for my liking. Too many tracks remind me of The Scissor Sisters. But that said, it does have its moments and while I personally don't think it's all that great, it's certainly worth a look if you're interested. You can watch the video to their new single, Electric Feel, here. It certainly sets the scene for some of the more bizarre influences in their music.

"New Zealand's Dappled"

Something about the above words struck a chord with me when I heard them last night. They were used to describe The Boat People. Now considering that they're actually from Brisbane, it was probably the comparison to Dappled Cities that I found intriguing. This may have been a bit of a stretch with some of The Boat People's earlier material, but with this latest single, I can certainly see the parallels. It has me quite excited for the arrival of their new album, Chandeliers, some time in July.

Awkward Orchid Ochard

Also here's the video for this song. I'm not so sure about the "how many band names can you spot" gimmick they're running with, but it's a interesting video nonetheless.

And speaking of their earlier material, it's actually very good. Yesyesyesyesyes is quite a solid album. If you're looking for some quirky pop music, I'd definitely recommend picking it up. Here's a track from it:

Unsettle My Heart

The Boat People are about to embark on mini tour for their Awkward Orchid Orchard single. Check their myspace for local details. Unfortunately for us, the Sydney gig is at The Vanguard, which is way too formal for my liking (tables?). But when you toss in support from Cloud Control (who have a killer new track), it should be a good night regardless.

The Seabellies

Who would ever have thought that getting played by the country's only decent national radio station would have any effect on your popularity? Well it's certainly done wonders for The Seabellies. Sure they've played V Festival and won a host of competitions, but it was getting their single, Heart Heart Heart Out, played on Triple J that has catapulted them in to the public eye. It also hasn't hurt that it's a damn good song. Stream it below and experience the full glory of that keyboard riff. If you want to download, you'll have to buy it off iTunes (outrageous!).

Heart Heart Heart Out (iTunes)

Now in the past, The Seabellies have taken a bit of a whack for being a little gimmicky. Personally I loved it when they all busted out into an epic drum solo, but I can certainly see how the effect wouldn't last. Well cynics better pay attention, because things have changed. Instrument swapping has been rationalised and novelty minimised, in favour of a more refined (yet equally powerful) performance. At their headline show last week (which was sold out), I was really amazed by how far they'd come. It was a brilliant set. And they repeated this at The Triple J gig, which was lapped up by punters and influential presenters alike. Dismissing these guys would criminal. They're easily one of the most interesting bands emerge from this country in a long while.


Another Sydney band which has me quite excited at the moment is theredsunband. I never really got into them around the release of their last album (Peapod), but listening back, I can't any good reason see why. Perhaps the punctuation of their name annoyed me. Whatever the case, the album is quite enjoyable and definitely worth a listen if you can still find it.

Sleep Forever

However, it's their new stuff that is grabbing me on a whole new level. It all began at the Laneway Festival, when I decided to end my night on quiet note by seeing them at the Basement stage. It was a great atmosphere and despite not knowing many of their songs, I thoroughly enjoyed it. There's something haunting about Sarah Kelly's vocals. One moment they feel warm and inviting, the next hoarse from desperation. It combines well with the band's distorted guitar/organ sound to create a very dark atmosphere. I couldn't really tell if it was new stuff they were playing, but the first two singles certainly suggest that their upcoming album is one to look forward to. I've already mentioned Like An Arrow, but this new one is just as promising.

The Eagle

Their new album, "The Shiralee", will be out on June 14th. They'll also be doing a mini tour at the end of the month.

Kes Band

If you're looking for something a little obscure, Kes Band might be the answer. They're a Melbourne band who play obscure pop songs, guided by the very distinct, almost childish vocals of Kes. And that's pretty much all I know about them. They came down to Sydney recently, and though I missed it, a friend went and said it blew him away. He showed me their album and I can see what he means. It's one of those intriguing albums that I keep going back to out of curiosity. I'll certainly be checking them out next time they come round.

Kes Band - Gentle Elf