Sydney Song Summit Live

Looking for something to do tonight? Well here's a damn good option. The Sydney Song Summit is in town, featuring a host of workshops for bands and musicians. But when the sun goes, they put on a showcase and we're all invited. With 19 bands playing across 4 stages, it's a delicious smorgasbord of musical talent. Almost like our own little SXSW (if you squint hard enough). Here's a few artists to look out for:

Dan Kelly

Lyrical genius runs deep in the Kelly family. While Uncle Paul remains Australia's most poignant storyteller, Dan shows the same flashes of brilliance in a very different space. The fact that he has a song called "Bindi Irwin Apocalypse Jam" pretty much sums it up. It's a perfect mix of playful humour and social commentary, filled with sing-along falsettos and hyperactive instrumentation. He's just having a great time and it's hard not to do the same; especially when he's rattling off stage banter that's second to none.

Artisan Guns

It's great to see some New Zealand bands getting some love at the showcase, and it looks like Artisan Guns are the ones to watch. I haven't seen them yet, so I won't pretend to know them, but their songs on Mysapce definitely show some promise. They've got some really interesting harmonies happening and all reports from their show at Mum on Friday suggest that they're great live. Keep an eye on them.

The Last Kinection

"They invaded, degraded and polluted our land, stole all the children and raped our women" (To the tune of the national anthem) - it's pretty clear that The Last Kinection aren't afraid to throw any political punches. And there's nothing more entertaining than seeing a few punches being thrown. When all the pieces fall into place, like on the track 'Worth Marching For', their brand of high-energy hip hop can be quite powerful. Should be an interesting one to catch live.

You'll also get the chance to see some favourites, including Fergus Brown, Dappled Cities (who have given up music to pursue laser shows), Washington, Dead Letter Chorus and a heap more. It takes place at Home Nightclub, Darling Harbour from 7.30pm. More details here:

The Beach Boys

What follows is an erratic look into the career of The Beach Boys. It's not definitive, nor is accuracy guarenteed, but hopefully you'll share in my renewed appreciation of their music.

The Beach Boys' legacy is an odd one. Far from the fairy tale of The Beatles, their career suffered its fair share of hiccups (and genuinely bad songs), leaving their story fragmented and at risk of being unheard by generations to come. It real shame because theirs is a story worth hearing.

Till I Die

The Early Days

One chapter of The Beach Boys tale that will never be forgotten is their surfer music. Songs about surfin', girls and cars will survive for years to come, long after this fun-loving culture is obselete. And while they certainly weren't the first band to use vocals harmonies, they did it in a way that made the listener aware and appreciative of this amazing effect, without sacrificing accessibility. In the eyes of history, surf music is The Beach Boys.

Surfin' Safari

But while this music is fun to listen to, it isn't what makes The Beach Boys worth remembering. Instead, it's their efforts to use their position, at the helm of popular music, to steer listeners into new directions. This where their story gets a bit rocky. And while it's safe to say that they failed in the their endeavour, they made some great music in the process. It turns out there's more to The Beach Boys than just surfin' safaris and good vibrations.

All Summer Long

Pet Sounds

The Pet Sounds era is another piece of Beach Boys history that will be safely remembered. An amazing album in its own right, it didn't actually sell that well upon initial release, but widespread critical acclaim has ensured it will live on. This has been helped in part by it's significance in The Beatles story. Inspired by Rubber Soul, Beach Boys mastermind, Brian Wilson quit touring to focus on writing their next album. The result was Pet Sounds, which would in turn inspire The Beatles to create Sgt Peppers. This tale is what first prompted many Beatles fans, including myself, to seek out Pet Sounds to see what all the fuss is about. And since The Beatles aren't about to be forgotten, Pet Sounds will remain etched in musical history.

God Only Knows


Brian Wilson's follow up masterpiece was to be called Smile, an ambitious project which would push The Beach Boys into completely new territory. The first single, Good Vibrations, was a huge success, despite it's relatively complex nature. But all this anticipation along with in-band fighting, record label demands, drug abuse and the release of Sgt Peppers meant that it never saw the light of day. It was a spectacular collapse and one they would never recover from. The rest of their career was inconsistent at best and as a result, a lot of quality work went largely unnoticed.

Good Vibrations

The myth surrounding Smile lived on for many years. A couple of songs popped up on future albums and diehard fans clung to unreleased demos, but it wasn't until 35 years later, when Brian Wilson returned to complete the project, that the story got its happy ending. The final result is quite epic indeed. If you want any chance of appreciating this album, you need to set aside some time and really LISTEN to it. It's quite amazing how it all unfolds.

Heros and Villians

The Later Years

And now to the very reason I am writing this post. The often-ignored later years. Up until recently, I knew nothing about The Beach Boys after Pet Sounds. And to be honest, I didn't really care. I was under the impression that they faded into obscurity and lost their touch, but it's not true. The Beach Boys did enough during this period that we shouldn't be so quick to dismiss it.

It all began when my brother bought home a vinyl copy of Surf's Up. As you can see above, the contrast of a dark, disturbing cover image, with the care-free connatation of title is quite striking. It's quite indicative of what The Beach Boys were going through at the time and after a few spins, I quickly became fond it. The album features a number quality composiitons from other band members, along with sounds you wouldn't noramally associate with The Beach Boys. It made me think twice about what I thought i knew and left me wanting more.

Looking At Tomorrow

As it turns out, the story behind the album isn't as quite as I imagined. There was 5 albums between Pet Soudns and Surf's Up and none of them had done very well. Brian Wilson was growing more and more distant and the fans sorely missed him. Surf's Up was a notorious track from the Smile era; Brian Wilson's equivalent of 'A Day in The Life'. It was added to the album and made the title track in a bid to sell more copies. Certainly not the stuff of fairy tales, but I've come to accept that when in order to find the gems in their later career, you're going to find some dirt.

Surf's Up

By no means am I an expert on these later years. I am taking my exploration very cautiously, listening one album at a time, starting with the most critically acclaimed. At the moment I am listening to Sunflower (1970), which is even stronger than Surf's Up. Next on the list will be Friends (1968). Sure, this dream run of discovery will probably end eventually, but for the moment, I'm loving it.

This Whole World

(wow, picking a track off Sunflower was hard...go listen to the whole album!)

((and one more because it's awesome))

Loop de Loop (Flip Flop Flyin' in an Aeroplane)

Splendour In The Grass 2010 Lineup Announced

What's this? A stupid amount of awesome bands at the same festival? Am I dreaming? Am I in America? How on Earth am I supposed to manage my time if I can't count the good bands on one hand? WHEN WILL I FIT IN MY NAPS???

Let's face it, Australia has a pretty pathetic record when it comes to festivals. Throw us a couple of big names and we're salivating. But today, Splendour in the Grass have announced a truly amazing lineup. It's one of those lineups you see overseas and get really depressed about. It's one of those lineups that belong only in the deepest depths of your imagination. I'm actually struggling to comprehend it. Every time I look at that list above, I notice another band that at any other festival, would be worth the ticket price. Yet here they are, on the same damn bill. Woah.

Well done Splendour. Now, where did I put my mind.....

Red Riders

Red Riders had me worried for a while. Band members were leaving and time was ticking by without much action. It was a shame, not just because of the awesome music they proudce, but because they're genuinely nice guys. So it's great to see that they're back on track and sounding better than ever. They've picked up Brad Heald from The Vines and will be releasing their second album in early July. The first single to come off it was You've Got a Lot of Nerve. I liked it from the beginning, but the more I listen, the more I enjoy. Check it out if you haven't already:

Following this is the brand new track, Ordinary. It's quite a simple song, but that's what makes it so endearing. It skips along casually, spreading an air of warmth. I'm not sure if it was Brad's doing or more great work from the others, but damn those guitars sound good. To top it off, they've put together a cool little video to go along with it:

You can pre-order Drown In Sound from JB Hifi online. It's only $21.99 and comes with a bonus cassette of demos. Not only that, but if you pay with Paypal (or a credit card through Paypal), you'll get free postage. Great band, great deal. Get into it!

Oh and I almost forgot. Red Riders are playing as part of the Ivy League benefit gig to Save FBI. It's for a good cause they're playing more great bands. Gooooooooooooooooo.


It's very likely that you've never heard of Hilotrons. Not many people have. It's one of those great musical mysteries that escapes me to this very day. Here's a band making music that's edgy, energetic and outrageously catchy, yet nobody listens. At times their music is infectious, sucking you into an frantic body-moving frenzy, yet nodbody is dancing. What went wrong? After reading a review that expressed similar disenchantment with this band's criminal level of underappreciation, I'm stepping out with my support. Hilotrons put out a new album this year, Happymatic, and it's shaping up to be another powerful release. I'm still warming to it, but it's definitely reignited the Hilotrons fever. Here's a song from that album, along with a cracker from their last album, Bella Simone.

Lovesuit (Happymatic. 2008)

As I mentioned, the new album doesn't quite excite me like the last one did, but knowing myself, this could very well change soon. Here's a song thats up there with my favourites so far.

Isis (Bella Simone, 2005)

I thing this songs gives some clues to why Hilotrons have been so widely ignored. Sadly, the moments of utter brilliance (yes, BRILLIANCE), are mixed with moments of the ordinary. If they could channel their talent into producing music that maintained the intensity throughout, the result would be devastating.

Restore the musical balance. Get your Hilotrons on.

Dappled Cities - The Price

It begins. In just a few months, Dappled Cities will release their 3rd album, Zounds, and if past experiences are anything to go by, it should be totally freakin' amazing. I’ll save my schoolgirl swooning for the actual release, but let’s just say I’m excited. Yesterday the band unveiled the first single off the album, The Price. I’ve been drawn to this song from the moment I first heard it in a sound check. That was a full 12 months ago and since then it’s undergone plenty of transformations, evolving to become the track we hear today. This refinement becomes noticeable when you put on a pair of decent headphones and give it a proper listen. It’s a mix of intensity and intrigue. On one hand you’re getting attacked by thumping drum fills and sweeping keyboards, but at the same time discovering buried riffs and extra layers. It’s exhilarating without being overwhelming. This mix of subtlety and dynamism has always been Dappled’s trademark, but with more experience and an unprecedented level of production, expect big things from Zounds. In their own words, it's "the album we’ve always wanted to make".

The Price

Head to the Dappled Cities Website and download the full single package, which includes a b-side and two experimental film clips. And of course, don’t forget to check out the Alphabeats clips hehe.


....and just when I thought we could compete......ha!


Pyramid Stage:
Dizzee Rascal
Vampire Weekend
Snoop Dogg
Willy Nelson
Corinne Bailey-Rae
Femi Kuti

Other Stage:
The Flaming Lips
Hot Chip
Florence and the Machine
La Roux
The Courteeners
Gaslight Anthem
The Stranglers
The Magic Numbers

John Peel Stage:
Groove Armada
The Black Keys
Mumford & Sons
Ellie Goulding
Bombay Bicycle Club
Tegan and Sara
De Staat
Chapel Club

West Holts
Mos Def (with full live band)
Femi Kuti
Nouvelle Vague & Guests
Breakestra with Chali 2na
Mariachi El Bronx
Matthew Herbert Big Band

Acoustic Stage:
Bootleg Beatles
Alan Price Set
McIntosh Ross
Turin Brakes
Brian Kennedy
Danny & The Champs
Megan Henwood
Cory Chisel
Julie Feeney

The Park Stage

The XX
Broken Bells
Special Guests
The Big Pink
Local Natives
Steve Mason
Hypnotic Brass Ensemble
Beth Jeans Houghton

East Dance
DJ Fatboy Slim
Live Chase and Status
DJ Zane Lowe
Live Plan B
DJ Rob da Bank
Live Example
DJ Roger Sanchez

West Dance
DJ Boys Noise
DJ Simian Mobile Disco
Live Delphic
DJ Fake Blood
DJ Rusko
Live Chromeo
DJ Aeroplane
DJ Boy 8-Bit
DJ Hannah Holland

Avalon Stage:
New Model Army
Transglobal Underground
Newton Faulkner
The Woodentops
Lou Rhodes
Goldheart Assembly
Gabby Young & The Other Animals
Hobo Jones & The Junkyard Dogs

Croissant Neuf
Steve Knightley
Julien Tulk Band
Undercover Hippy Band
Seth Lakeman
Biggles Wartime Band

The Queen's Head
Good Shoes
Magic Numbers
The Mystery Jets
Detroit Social Club
Tiffany Page
Frank Turner
Fiction Plane he Beat

Poetry & Words
Penny Ashton
Baba Brinkman
Sabrina Mahfouz
Tony Walsh
Aisle 16
Kat Francois
Paula Varjack
Andreattah Chuma
Jonny Fluffypunk
Kate Tempest
Pete the Temp
Helen Gregory and Pete Hunter

Pyramid Stage:
Scissor Sisters
Seasick Steve
Jackson Browne
Lightning Seeds

Other Stage:
Pet Shop Boys
The Cribs
The National
Kate Nash
Imogen Heap
Coheed and Cambria
Two Door Cinema Club

John Peel Stage:
Jamie T
The xx
Marina & The Diamonds
Field Music
Cymbals Eat Guitars
Sophie Hunger

West Holts

George Clinton with
Parliament / Funkadelic
Jerry Dammers Spatial
AKA Orchestra
Os Mutantes
Devendra Banhart
Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba
Phenomenal Handclap Band
Brother Ali
Troy Ellis & The Longshots

Acoustic Stage
Christy Moore
Nick Lowe
Imelda May
Al Stewart
Michael Eavis In Conversation
Gandale Murphy & The
Slambovian Circus
The Leisure Society
Ellen & The Escapes
John Allen & Band

The Park Stage
Laura Marling
Special Guests
Beach House
Strange Boys
Frankie & The Heart Strings
The Ballad of Britain
Peggy Sue

East Dance
Live N-Dubz
Live Chipmunk
Live Kelis
DJ DJ MistaJam
Live Tinie Tempah
Live Giggs
DJ Yasmin
Live Chiddybang
Live McClean
Live Bashy
Live Donaeo
Live Roll Deep

West Dance
Live Dubfire
DJ Nick Warren
Live Mix Hell
DJ Sander Kleinenberg
Live Banco de Gaia
DJ Riva Starr
Live Neville Staple
Live Dub Pistols
Live Foreign Beggars

Avalon Stage:
The Lightning Seeds
Alabama 3 acoustic
Charlie Winston
Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel
The Unthanks
The Avett Brothers
The Wurzels
Nick Harper
Tom Williams & The Boat

Croissant Neuf
The Beat
MrB. The Gentleman Rhymer
Hot Feat
The Kevin Brown Trio
The Vagaband
Dizraeli & The Small Gods

The Queen's Head
Earl Brutus
Phenomenal Handclap Band
Band Of Skulls
Holy F***
Blood Red Shoes
Here We Go Magic
Cate Le Bon

Poetry & Words
John Hegley
Paula Varjack
Andreattah Chuma
Attila the Stockbroker
Hollie McNish
Luke Wright
Kate Tempest
Murray Lachlan Young
Sabrina Mahfouz
Bohdan Piasecki
Open mic. (hosted by Julian
Jonny Fluffypunk

Pyramid Stage:
Stevie Wonder
Jack Johnson
Ray Davies
Norah Jones
Paloma Faith

Other Stage:
lcd soundsystem
We Are Scientists
Grizzly Bear
Temper Trap
The Hold Steady
Frightened Rabbit

John Peel Stage:
Julian Casablancas
Broken Social Scene
Gang of Four
The Drums
Holy F***
These New Puritans
Everything Everything
Dan Mangan

West Holts
Rodrigo y Gabriela
Toots & the Maytals
Quantic & his Combo Barbaro
Staff Benda Bilili
Dr John
The Bees
Dizraeli and the Small Gods

Acoustic Stage:
Jackson Browne with David Lindley
Richard Thompson
Loudon Wainwright III
Blues Band
London Community Gospel Choir
Joel Rafael
Fisherman's Friend

The Park Stage:
Empire Of The Sun
Dirty Projectors
Archie Bronson Outfit
Portico Quartet
Fionn Regan
Here We Go Magic
Travelling Band

East Dance:
DJ Above & Beyond
Live Crystal Castles
DJ Filthy Dukes (DJ Set)
Live Professor Green
Live Reverend Sound System
Live Crystal Fighters

West Dance:
Live Magnetic Man
DJ Jackbeats
Live Stanton Warriors
DJ Adam F
Live Blasted Mechanism
DJ Toddla T
Live Alex Metric Live
DJ South Central
Live Jaguar Skills
DJ A1 Bassline
Live Killaflaw
DJ Virus Syndicate

Avalon Stage:
The Saw Doctors
Imelda May
Judy Collins
Teddy Thompson
Adrian Edmondson & The Bad Shepherds
Kirsty Almeida
Ellen & The Escapades

Criossant Neuf
The Baghdaddies
Zen Elephants
Prof Nohair & the Wig Lifters
Corinne Bailey-Rae
The People's String Foundation

The Queen's Head
Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip
I Am Kloot
Field Music
The Middle East
Mountain Man

Poetry & Words
Glastonbury Festival Poetry Slam (hosted by Kat Francois)
Helen Gregory and Benita Johnson
Pete Hunter
Pete the Temp
Jean Binta Breeze
Luke Wright
Jo Bell (Website Poet in Residence)
Bohdan Piasecki
Julian Ramsey-Wade
Penny Ashton
Baba Brinkman
Comperes – Dreadlcokalien and Abbey Oliveira

Last Dinosaurs

This band divides me in so many ways. On one hand, I've found their sound refreshing and instantly appealing, but at the same time I've been listing the bands they appear to be ripping off. One minute I'll be digging a melody, the next cursing them for repetition. There's so much contradiction going on, I'm beginning to wonder if we're schizophrenic. But whatever the case, this is a band to watch. They have a number of very strong songs that are sure to get some attention. In fact, it's more than likely I'll be hating them in about a year, meaning they're set to do quite well. They hail from Brisbane and will be coming to Sydney soon to play a few shows. Both my selves will be keen to see how they go.

Honolulu - This was the first song I heard and it clearly did something right because it spurred me into further investigation and eventually this post. It's got a nice groove to it, reminding me of Vampire Weekend and the way their songs seem to flow so effortlessly.

Myst - This song is eating away at me! You know when you hear a song that reminds you of something and you try desperately to work out what it is? Well this has been my last half hour. Listening to it on repeat, banging my head in frustration. Its quite a shame, because it's actually a good song. I just need some closure. Feel free to put me out of my misery if you spot the reference.


  1. to pay no attention or too little attention to; disregard or slight
  2. to be remiss in the care or treatment of
  3. to omit, through indifference or carelessness
  4. to fail to carry out or perform (orders, duties, etc.)
  5. to fail to take or use

A (not so) quick hello

Of Montreal - Live
They're probably the most mentioned band on this blog, but you can never get enough Of Montreal. They're in Australia for the first time and their Sydney show was pretty awesome. Sure, it was disappointing that they didn't play any old stuff, but when a band is over a decade old, you sort of expect it. What makes them impressive though, is that despite so many of my favourites being absent, nearly every song they played I loved. It's testimony to the strength of their catalogue. Even the songs from Sunlandic Twins pleasantly surprised me. I was really getting into it, right amongst the hilarious mix of freaks up the front.

Bunny Ain't No Kind of Rider

Golden Plains
Speaking of Of Montreal, tomorrow I head off to Golden Plains (plus a night in Melbourne of course). If I was sensible, I wouldn't be here writing this, but clearly i dont care about my body, so I'll be launching into what will most likely be a 4-day blur of music and alcohol, with very little sleep. Golden Plains will be quite a different experience for me. I'm usually the economical type, going to festivals with the best lineup and running like mad between bands. This will be the first time I go to a festival and just chill out. I'll still be watching plenty of music, I just won't have a personalised timetable regimented food and toilet breaks. Most of the bands playing, I know, but not well, so it will be interesting. At least very least, I know enough them to know it will be incredible.

The Sun Smells Too Loud (Mogwai)

Decoder Ring
Speaking of epic instrumental bands, Decoder Ring's new album is coming soon, and the word on the street is that it's gonna be big. After seeing them a couple of times lately, I'm not surprised. Did I mention they are supporting Coldplay? Haha good on them. I recently put this song on and was reminded of how stupidly good they are.


Dappled Cities
Speaking of Sydney bands with new albums coming out, I saw Dappled Cities last night. The show was an intriguing one, and not just because over half the crowd were Bondi Bogans. Many of the new songs had evolved since I last saw them, with either different sounds or entirely new parts. In most cases, the songs had matured and improved significantly, but occassionally a change struck me as kind of odd and disappointing. But I'm sure they know what they're doing. It's kinda stupid how many times I've seen this band, but at the same time incredible because I never grow tired. Their music has a strange appeal. On record, it's quite calming. There isn't standout tracks pulling the others along, but rather a varied stream of interesting sounds, capturing your attention with its subtleties. When playing live, their music is all about energy. A profound jerkiness emerges, as they jump from one direction to another with a sudden chord change or characteristic cry. They have such tight rhythms that you can't help be lured in by the momentum. Before you know it your body is moving in step with the song's every fluctuation. It's no wonder that this band invokes such freakish devotion amongst it fans and a real shame that they aren't more widely recognised. Such is the curse of talent.

You can currently hear Dappled's forthcoming single on the Beach Road Hotel myspace page. It isn't on the band's page and I doubt it will be up for much longer so get in quick.

Valentines Day

Hopefully everybody reads this in time because you would be terribly upset if you did something wasteful tomorrow, like have a romantic picnic, when there was so much good music on offer. After all who doesn't love music?

The Alandale All Stars play Holiday Road

This is a concept born heaven: a group of Sydney's funniest musicians have gotten together, formed a cover band and play for free on Saturday afternoons. The super line-up consists of Jake Stone and Jerry from Bluejuice, Lindsey from Frenzal Rhomb, the Drummer from Mess Hall, Cameron Bruce (that awesome keyboard guy from everywhere) and Andy Kelly (founder of Ivy Leagure Records). It is a truly deadly combination. They dress like idiots, dance around and produce hilarious banter from every corner of the stage. Not only that, but they play awesome songs from Bruce Springsteen to Steely Dan. I was lucky enough to catch their first show and it was incredible. So much fun.

When: 2pm
Where: The Annandale Hotel

The Devoted Few
I am proud to announce that The Devoted Few's new album 'Baby, You're A Vampire' is finally coming out! It's been a long wait but it was definitely worth it. This is easily one of my favourite local albums so I would definitely recommend picking it up. Not only that, but they'll be celebrating the release with an in-store at the Sydney Apple Store. If you've ever had a desire to see a gig in a glass cube, now is your chance. The fact that The Devoted Few are an awesome live band is just a bonus. Definitely try and make it to this.

When: 4pm
Where: The Apple Store, 367 George St
Listen: Trigger Fingers

There's also pleeeeeeenty of music happening in the night so grab your nearest street press and get intimate!

Laneway Wrapup

Wow the day went fast. I was bouncing from stage to stage, enjoying my day, when all of a sudden Architecture in Helsinki began playing. The day had disappeared from underneath me! But I think all in all it was another satisfying Laneway experience. I still maintain that even though it has modest (but still awesome) lineups, it succeeds because the secondary factors (layout, organisation, crowd, atmosphere etc.) are great, allowing the music to flourish. Highlights included:

Crazy antics from Still Flyin

More than 10 people, crammed on a small stage. Some of whom are there purely to dance. At least 3 men in short shorts. One in a jump suit. All there to play jazzed up party music. Sadly, I only got to see the first 3 songs, but I certainly caught the fever. For Sydney people, they are playing with Cuthbert & The Night Walkers at The Annandale tomorrow (Tuesday). I'm sensing a very fun night.

MP3: Good Thing It's A Ghost Town Around Here

Rocking out to Jay Reatard

These guys don't muck around. When one song ends, Jay yells the name of the next, and they launch straight in. It's perfect for a band that plays short fast punk. The songs always have great melodies and occassionally some lyrics to match, but best of all, these guys know how to shred on stage.

Discovering The Hold Steady

Ok, so discovering is probably misleading because I know this band pretty well. But until last night, I never really thought much of them. The singing style sort of made every song sound similar and it got a little annoying. But seeing them perform live, seeing them play with such conviction, it all made sense. Their songs are about storytelling. And the best way to get a message across to the audience is to yell every word right at them. It was a powerful set and certainly worthy of the headline slot.

The only real disappointments stemmed from my own physical limitations. I can only be in one place at a time and I can't teleport. But I'm learning to deal with these. All in all it was a great day. I'll be back next year.


As you may have noticed, I like to rant about the state of digital music and online stores. Well here I go again. In the 6 or so months since last writing, there has been some interesting developments, all of them for the better. Online music is now flexible, convenient and intelligent and we are seeing music delivered to us in new and exciting ways. The future is bright.


It would seem that the age of DRM is finally coming to a close. iTunes recently announced that they are removing protection from their entire collection. About time. It’s true that services like 7digital and AmazonMp3 have been offering this for a while, but its good to finally have the market leader on board.

It’s great that iTunes is selling its music without DRM, but you are still fairly restricted when it comes to file formats. If digital music wants to make its mark, consumers should be given the same flexibility that they get when buying a CD. That means choosing your desired format and quality at the point of purchase and ideally, the ability to come back and get a different format if your needs change down the track.

In this department, 7digital is the only company that comes close. They offer a choice between WMA, AAC and MP3, but its still far from a totally flexible system. However what does impress me about 7digital is that a very limited number of albums are available as FLAC. For those who don’t know, FLAC is lossless format, allowing you to burn the tracks to a CD with the exact same quality as the original. While I may not be able tell the difference personally, this move opens up digital music to a brand new market: audiophiles. If you increase flexibility, you get a wider audience and happier customers. Hopefully we’ll see this trend improve over time.

Another area of flexibility that sees 7digital come out on top is price. Stores such as iTunes, AmazonMP3 and every other copy cat, tend to have one price for tracks, one price for albums and very little variation. In some sense this is good, ensuring that prices are always reasonable, but its also very uninspiring. Without any discounts, there's not much incentive to pick up a classic album or try your luck on an obscure release, as you might in a traditional music store. 7digital, on the other hand, may have slightly more expensive prices to begin with, but also a great range of discounted albums that can be very tempting, especially if you've lost your old copy. Price variation and sales are used in almost every area of commerce, including music stores. This is for a reason. It works!

It is in the field of integration that iTunes truly reigns supreme. If you use both the player and the store, buying music becomes almost as easy as listening to it. The only loser is your credit card. Other stores do a decent job. 7digital and eMusic have download managers that help keep your purchases organized and AmazonMP3 will even add your files to iTunes, but something is missing. It suggests that for online music to succeed, buying and listening need to be heavily intertwined. Perhaps more stores will adopt the iTunes model or maybe someone will figure out a way to integrate listening to your collection into a web-based environment. One way or another, I have a feeling that Songbird, a Jukebox/Browser mashup, could provide the answer for those wanting to topple iTunes.

But apparently domination isn’t enough for Apple because they went and developed Genius, further enhancing the integrated experience. Genius works by comparing your library and listening habits with millions of other iTunes users and generating intelligent recommendations based on the similarities. For the lazy and uninspired, it’s a great way to discover new music. That said, it’s nothing groundbreaking. Amazon and have been doing it for ages. However, I can see intelligent recommendations playing an increasingly pivotal role in music purchasing, especially if someone can invent a service rewarding enough to convince people to put their money spending in the hands of an algorithm.

The less than stellar performance of online music downloads suggests that offering plain mp3s isn’t enough to convince most buyers. More incentive is needed. Well a key way to do this is to offer mp3s in conjunction with other products. Aussie band The Grates, recently offered a deluxe package of their new album which included a ticket to your local gig when they did their album tour. The savings were enough to convince a teetering fan to take up the offer. However, combining ticket sales with mp3s is also not new. Even iTunes had a go, without much success. But whatever its past record, I think its definitely an avenue worth pursuing. Imagine this scenario: we have a band who are wildly popular thanks to word of mouth and an album that rapidly spread across illegal download networks. As a result of their popularity, their gigs are selling out as soon as they go on sale. Let's say MGMT for example. If they were to offer a deal that gave album purchasers the ability to buy tickets before the general public, I dare say many illegal downloaders would be tempted to pay for the album in order to guarantee their spot. Of course this would also work for either physical or digital album sales, but the online nature of digital music makes pulling this off more of a possibility.

Digital music also makes it very easy for artists to tie in bonus content. Rather than sticking extras on the end of a CD, purchasing an online album can open exclusive access to online areas, containing bonus videos, live recordings etc. Metallica did just this with their latest album and it worked a treat. It’s a small effort for artists, but a big benefit for listeners. By differentiating legal and illegal downloads, you give listeners the incentive to actually pay for their music. All that’s required now is a online music store that makes it easy for artists to offer this sort of content.


It’s good to know that someone out there is trying. Trying to shake things up. The past year has seen three new services launch, each claiming to revolutionize the way we will buy digital music. Sadly, I can’t see any of them achieving this, but that doesn’t detract from their merits. Like the subscription model, these services will have both fans and critics, but importantly, will add to the choices of how we want to buy music.

Nokia – ‘Comes with Music’
The premise is as such: you buy a phone and in return, get free access to Nokia’s vast online music collection. It sounds too good to be true and it is. For one, it isn’t really free. These phones will cost more than they otherwise would have. Secondly, it only lasts for 12 months, after which you’ll either have to pay for more or get a new phone. And finally, it really isn’t a replacement for buying music, because there’s limits on what you can do with the music. But I really must congratulate Nokia for going out on a limb and trying this. It may not change the industry, but for those who get it on their phone, it’s a pretty cool bonus feature.

Official Website

DDA Music
This one really had me intrigued. Albums come in a little package, with art and liner notes, just like a normal CD, except that in this case, the music is on a USB stick. Now to me, putting music on USB drives is a stupid idea, but what grabs me about this product is the attention given to extra content. This is something I always felt was lacking from digital music. With a CD you get something physical, something attractive to show for your purchase. DDA tries to replicate this. It also offers plenty of possibilities in the way of digital content, with the ability for artists to offer bonus materials such as videos and live tracks. They can even continue to offer rewards, long after a purchase has been made, targeting fans who were loyal. I wish I could have have tried one of these out, but sadly the launch was appalling. None of the ‘participating’ retailers had even heard of them, and still, more than a month later, I’ve only ever spotted one of them in a store.

Official Website

Slot Music
This format is similar to DDA music except that the music comes on a tiny MicroSD card. It offers similar sorts of bonus content, such as videos and remixes, but lacks the online connectivity of DDA. Even though MicroSD cards would we be incredibly easy to lose and wouldn’t make a very pretty collection, the are probably the smarter option. I’ll always remember the disappointment after I first upgraded from CD player to Mp3 player, of not being able to enjoy my brand new purchases on the bus trip home. Well with Slot Music, the millions of people with MicroSD compatible phones will be able to get their instant gratification.

Official Website

While both Slot Music and DDA have their merits, I think they’re missing the point. It takes a huge improvement for a new format to take off. With cassettes, it was portability. With CDs, it was storage space and digital capacity. These new formats merely offer minor enhancements, and as such, won’t be enough to cause a major shift in consumer habits. The reason digital music has so much potential is because it has the ability to go BEYOND physical formats. This is where we should be focussing attention.


Nothing frustrates me more than the fact that I’m not the head of an electronics company with money to burn. There’s one product in particular that baffles me when I wonder why someone hasn’t invented it yet. It consists of a hard drive and touch screen the size of a photo frame. It sits on your shelf and can either use its own speakers or connect to your existing system. It plays music off the hard drive or off computers on your home network and you interact with it using an iTunes/iPhone interface on the touch screen. It also connects to an online music store, allowing you to download new music directly to the device. In other words, its an oversized iPod Touch. Come on Apple, how hard is it to make one of these!? Sure, computers and iPods can do more or less the same job, but the masses would undoubtedly eat this up.

We’re seeing a number of trends in technology that give a very strong indication of how we’ll be getting our music. Firstly, mp3 players, phones and cameras are gradually converging into one super device. These devices will become increasingly integrated with the internet and our home computers. Secondly, information is gradually being moved into ‘the cloud’. This means people are storing their documents and preferences online, so they can access them from anywhere.

Going on these two trends, I expect to see our music collections becoming more web-based. When we buy music, from home or abroad, it gets added to this centralised collection, and all our devices will synchronise with it. Not only does it make our music easily accessible, but it’s a natural evolution of collections into the digital world. One of the most rewarding parts of buying records or CDs is that you gradually build a collection that you can be proud of. As our music becomes digital, so will our collections. And it will be online social networks that replace our bedrooms as the place where we share and display our musical history.

Whenever I try and analyse what could improve the performance of online music stores, I usually focus on two key groups: illegal downloaders and audiophiles. There are plenty of other poorly performing groups (single mothers perhaps?), but these are the two I understand. In order to engage these groups, the focus really needs to be on the things I mentioned earlier, quality and flexibility.

Quality needs to match that of a CD. This means high quality downloads, associated content (album art, liner notes, etc.) and some sort of token, to make your purchase feel worthwhile. This token is referring to the sharable, online collections that I mentioned earlier, where you get something to show for your moeny, not just a bunch of mp3s that get lost amongst all your illegal downloads.

Flexibility mostly needs to focus on choice and ease of use. As I mentioned earlier, you should be able to download in whatever format you want and continue to have access to any format. Think of it like buying a CD that gets minded for you online. When you want to download, you choose your settings and rip it. You can even listen online or rip it again if you wish.

If you can offer both quality and flexibility, you’re bringing legal downloads to a level above CDs and illegal downloads and making them worth paying for. As it stands, they are only equal to or worse than the other options, so its no wonder they’re unpopular.

The other area which I feel is integral to the success of digital music is integration. Buying music online needs to be so ridiculously easy that we do it out convenience, even if there is free alternatives available. Take Nintendo's Virtual Console for example. This system allows you to download classic games onto your Wii and play them on your TV. It has been very successful, despite the fact that every one of these games can be played on a computer for free with an emulator. The reason people pay is that its so convenient and nicely integrated into their home entertainment systems. For music, this means integrating the buying process into all the areas that we're listening (our stereos, on the web, on our phones), so that when we want something new, we'll take the convenient option, not the free option. iTunes does a pretty impressive job, but thats only if you're willing to lock into Apple's products. We're still waiting on someone to produce a product that seemlessly ties in all our listening experiences and makes buying online music second nature.

Missing Posts

A casual glance at this blog may suggest that this is the first post in over a month. However, this is not true. I have posted 3 times and in each case the post has been removed by Blogger at the request of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, in accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Where I went wrong, I don't know, but what I do know is that I've been left with a very bare looking blog. If the person who issued those Cease and Desist orders is reading this, I encourage them to contact me. Because in running this blog, I don't set out to hurt any artists and am always willing to co-operate with the wishes of labels. But unless I know the nature of the complaint, I can't fix the problem! Apparently, the notices will be put up soon at so hopefully some light will be shed on the matter. I'm almost afraid to keep posting because I have no idea how pissed off the IFPI is. And we all know how much America loves to extradite. Eek!

Hottest 10

**MP3s removed until I find out why the IFPI is complaining**

It took at least 5 bands spamming me on Facebook, but this year I got my act together and voted in Triple J's Hottest 100 (last year I planned on voting solely for Vitriol but sadly, left it too late). I never actually realised this, but apparently the Hottest 100 is the world's largest song poll. And while its far from perfect, it certainly presents a much healthier look at the current state of music than any Billboard Top 20. So do your bit; vote now before it closes this Sunday. YES WE CAN. Sorry.

Here's my top ten, followed by a shortlist. While it may have been hacked together in a bit of rush, I make no excuses. I was in love with every one of these songs at some point throughout the year.

Temper Trap - Sweet Disposition
Fleet Foxes - White Winter Hymnal
Sigur Ros - Gobbledigook
Santogold - Lights Out
Sparkadia - Too Much To Do
Cloud Control - Death Cloud
Vampire Weekend - A-Punk
Youth Group - All This Will Pass
Jordy Lane - Galileo
MGMT - Kids

Band Of Horses - No One's Gonna Love You
Ben Folds - You Don't Know Me
Bird Automatic - Suburbs
Bridezilla - Saint Francine
Born Ruffians - Hummingbird
Children Collide - Social Currency
Death Cab For Cutie - Long Division
Deep Sea Arcade - Crouch End
Devoted Few - The Death Of Us
Firekites - Same Suburb Different Park
Flight Of The Conchords - Inner City Pressure
Hercules & Love Affair - Blind
John Steel Singers - Rainbow Kraut
Kings Of Leon - Closer
Crystal Castles - Untrust Us
Ladyhawke - Paris Is Burning
Metronomy - My Heart Rate Rapid
Mercy Arms - Half Right
Of Montreal - Id Engager
Pivot - O Soundtrack My Heart
redsunband , The - The Eagle
Seabellies - The - Heart Heart Heart Out
Songs - KC's In Trouble
TV On The Radio - DLZ
Ween - Blue Balloon
Yeasayer - 2080


**MP3s removed until I find out why the IFPI is complaining**

As any regular reading would probably know, I'm no fan of remixes. This is simply because the vast majority of them aren't needed. They tend to just hack up a decent track and stick a fat beat on it, hoping to cash in on the fame of the original. It's a blunt and cynical view, but hey, its all too often true. But that's not to say I'm a total hater. When a remix comes along that enhances the original and brings something new to the table, I'll gladly respect it. Here's a couple that have recently caught my fancy.

MGMT - Electric Feel (Aeroplane Remix)
I came across this version at a party. Everyone was sitting back and relaxing when it came on, perfectly fitting the chilled atmosphere. It's so unassuming, never trying too hard to show off the sample. In fact it's really a song in it's own right. It takes the core elements of Electric Feel, spreads them out, adds a sweet bass line and produces an awesome laid back track.

Shout Out Louds - Impossible (It's Possible Remix by Studio)
While never really getting into the Shout Out Louds, I've always had a soft spot for this song. When I heard this version on the radio, I was impressed with how it brought out the track's strengths. The prominent bass elements help to fuel the natural feeling of excitement, while the added texture and reverb add to the song's warm, rich vibe.

Also, while looking for a copy of the Shout Out Louds remix, I came across this article on a site called BiBaBiDi. It takes a similar line of, "the world is full of terrible remixes, but here's some good ones". For the remix fans out there, it's worth a look.

Guilty Pleasures

**MP3s removed until I find out why the IFPI is complaining**

Considering this blog recently passed the 300,000 visitor milestone (!!!) and we're right in the middle of the Christmas/New Year period, I think it's appropriate to do some indulging. You know those songs that you put on, and love, but only you and friends appreciate them, because only you know the back-stories behind them? Well these are some of my songs. And the back-stories. Cause with all the serious music journalism I've been doing this year, it's about time I had a break.

Will Smith - Gettin' Jiggy With It
Ah the Will Smith phase. This was entertaining. At one point we made plans to transform our living room into the 'Will Smith Room', plastering the walls with giant posters of this undeniably cool man. Sadly, the furthest we got was a newspaper clipping on someone's door, but it was all worth it for the utterly bemused looks and remarks of 'You mean you ACTUALLY like Will Smith?'

Toto - Africa
I missed out on Toto the first time round, but recently someone stumbled across this song and we had our own private revival. I think we liked it purely for its excess. With lyrics such as 'Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti', you know you're onto a winner. It's even better live, with drum cages, epic choruses and flashing lights. This song is the definition of spectacle. I especially love how the falsetto singer aged from a token 80's guy into a Hillsong preacher. Brilliant!

Custard - Love Measurer
Custard are without doubt a great Australian band. Anyone who doesn't agree is fooling themselves. But amongst all the hits, this song became a house favourite. The original reason was its rarity. The album it came from, Weisenheimer, couldn't be found on the internet or in shops. So when a live version was found, excitement followed. The signature riff evoked plenty of fist shaking and jumping about. Antics that went straight over the heads of everyone else who wasn't listening to it 5 times a day.

Frenzal Rhomb - You Can't Move Into My House
As I walked to Kings Cross one night and a friend began singing a song about missing a lung, I was reminded just how much I love Frenzal Rhomb. I'm not sure if its the pent-up energy, the simple song sturctures, the hilarious lyrics, or perhaps rebellious allure of excessive swearing, but something makes this band consistently awesome. I'll always remember a road trip to Melbourne, when one of their songs came on and the whole car spontaneously sung along. What ensued was an hour of non-stop Frenzal Rhomb, our voices wearing thin well before their list of hits.

The Real Tuesday Weld - Last Words

I present to you a single-listen blog. It's always a special occasion when you hear a song for the first time and instantly feel attached to it. The feeling is one of warmth and satisfaction, but also quiet anticipation of what more could await. It's a feeling that happens far too rarely for me, so I had share it while it lasted. Sadly though, the very nature of a 'single-listen' means I can't offer much in the way of description. However I do remember the chorus having some great vocals. They had power behind them, but at the same time were soft and reserved. Check it out for yourself so I can stop mucking around actually give it another listen.

Last Words

p.s. i can't say i'm the biggest fan of the band name...

Howling Bells - Into The Chaos

It's been well over a year since I've even thought of this band and then all of a sudden, BAM, this song comes on the radio. One round of the chanting opening riff and I was hooked. The slow, haunting vocals took over in the chorus and the Howling Bells memories came flooding back. It's been so long that all I can really remember about their last album is that it was good. With a second album on the way, the band couldn't have found a more perfect lead single than Into The Chaos. My attention is well and truly theirs.

Into The Chaos

Seekae - The Sound of Trees Falling On People

Another album which I've been listening to lately is the debut release by Sydney electronic outfit, Seekae. So early in their career, I would hardly have expected them to have an album, let alone one with 18 fully developed tracks. Their music is some sort of dramatic techno, mixing strange electronic clippings with looping keyboard melodies. I'm only just getting into it, but already I'm discovering an incredibly diverse array of sounds. My current favourite, Void, sees them really live up to 'Shoegaze' tag that they use on their myspace. I've always appreciated the way good electronic artists can build emotion without the need for lyrics and Seekae do just that. I'm not quite sure what they're doing in terms of distributing this album (anyone?), but they have a launch on Dec 10th at the Hoey, so I'm sure you'll be able to find out then.


And just as I was writing this, I discovered another favourite (perhaps I should have listened more before writing this!). This one features some truly awesome keyboard sounds coming from every direction. I hope you guys don't mind me posting two tracks.

Halley Wars