HEAVY AND WEIRD’S END OF YEAR LISTS – 2015

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I’ve been waiting until Christmas eve to post this list because I wanted to give the full scope of 2015 time to play out. I also wanted to rush through some reviews that I’d been sitting on for the past few months. I must apologies to all the artists who have sent me stuff in 2015 – I have been listening and enjoying a fuckload of what you have all sent me but the stuff I’ve reviewed and featured in this list is stuff that’s stuck with me beyond just the review stage. These are artists and songs that haunt me and have left me feeling changed and renewed.

So without further ado let me present to you the HEAVY AND WEIRD END OF YEAR LISTS:

Artist Of The Year

Sophie Lowe

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I don’t mean to blush but I’ve been a fan of Sophie Lowe’s acting ever since I saw her in “The Slap” which lead me to her other films including “Beautiful Kate,” “After The Dark” and “Adore” – all of them are vital pieces of cinema and it is quite evident that Sophie is destined to make the big jump to Hollywood stardom. When I recently discovered that she was transitioning to music I was fucking ecstatic. As an actress Sophie is world class, a true artist and her skill for tackling highly complicated and emotional characters spills over into her music.

In 2015 Sophie released EP1 and EP 2 and when combined they weave together 12 delicious tracks that showcase pop music built on smart songwriting skills and deep emotional drama. With EP 1 and EP 2 we find Lowe venturing into sparse instrumental landscapes with her vocals delivering context to all that haunts her. It is real and incredibly raw commanding your attention. It is no doubt part of Lowe’s creative DNA that both EP 1 and EP 2 are cinematic in their presentation with the music allowing you to paint your own visuals when you shut your eyes and ease into the sound of her voice.

The music of both EP’s have a steady electronica vibe throughout and aesthetically is in debt to the swoon and slide of 1990’s trip hop pioneers Portishead. The sonics are stark and bare with Lowe utilising the space to really stretch out her vocals covering every inch of these tracks with her disciplined ache. Lyrically there are varying degrees of hurt, loss and despair circling the authors need and desire to be understood by those who share planet earth with her. On the surface it sounds like break-up songs but the plea for a mutual sharing of respect spreads itself to so many other possible scenarios where the dread of being misunderstood occurs.  This is music for the late night descent into heartbreak nostalgia and it does a fantastic job of framing all that is painful and all that is joyful about love.

As a singer, Lowe sounds uniquely beautiful and is able to balance the hushed dynamics of a crooner with the sweet shine of a pop singer. Combine this with her ability to experiment with different textures and moods and slowly you start to hear the rumblings of a true visionary who knows the perfect way to mix above and below ground rule books in order to communicate vital pieces of art. That is what makes both EP 1 and EP 2 so great and I just love every inch of it.

It’s no secret that there was a girl who stole my heart long ago and whose shape remains inside the soul of every yearning filled encounter I have with other female humans. Sometimes the fantasy is more pure than the reality and it is because of this that my mind remains her hostage with no real ransom available to dull the ache and set me free. It may be ridiculous to the non-believers but a muse can be murder especially when you search for the face of your yearning and some kind of remedy for sleepless Sundays. When love disappears, every brand new day is yours to fear with a grief so strong your eyes can’t hide it and as a result you build many walls around you to shield yourself from it all. Regardless of how much life I live in the meantime, she’ll hang in my heart forever. This yearning has a language that is heard only by the spirits with total belief that all this pity frames a scar and that in the end it will always remain as faith for the man and a kiss for the friend.

When I listen to Sophie Lowe as the vocalist I tend to slip into that place where that memory of love lost comes rushing back to me. The moment EP 1 and EP 2 on the stereo and plugged in my headphones I felt the sweet embrace of the chaotic emotional journey that is the sting of distant heartache memories. The music of Sophie Lowe provides the perfect soundtrack to this ache soaked journey.

This music is purely nocturnal and will always communicate more clearly between the hours of 9pm and 4am. Like the shadowy pulse of ex-lovers whispering into your ear there are memories of yearning (past, present and future) hiding inside the songs on EP 1 and EP 2. The darkness of it all allows you to trade your fetish for fiction and replace it with new kinds of motion and sequence. You’ll find yourself musing on the lifelong debate of flesh versus the spirit and as you try ever so hard to attach yourself to some innocence. No matter how hard you try that funeral march will continue to trickle down your belly.

The mystery present on songs like “Dreaming” and “Please” from EP 1 and “Pink Flowers” and “Breathe” from EP 2 pushing you to explore that shiver and all of that spooked out bliss she uses to suffocate your mind. You simply have to listen to the lyrics to see that Lowe is once again using very specific metaphors to illustrate her feelings and to allow your imagination to swoon and swing between joy and heartache. In the heat of the summer night Sophie Lowe uses her unique sonic language to penetrate all your angst as you hang spacious from the clutter of your hurt and safely drift away.

One of the real treats of this record is “Like I Do You” from EP 2 which presents a scene of catastrophe with a mood that balances what a monumental picture of hurt existence can be. Although peppered with a dense dark mood, “Like I Do You” still has a bright spark weaving in and out of it. The joy that is the satellite in your heart is what connects to this song, especially the “Like I Do You” refrains – that line gives meaning to the constant quest to transmit to all of those secret faces.

When you’re looking at life through innocent eyes it seems love and desire are quite simple, but sometimes it wounds and it’s so very smooth. That is when music like Sophie Lowe’s sounds best, when you are wounded yet optimistic. This is the kind of music that fires up your romantic imagination making you feel like that somewhere out there he or she waits and that 84 will be worth living for.

 

Band Of The Year

Full Flower Moon Band

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I understand that on the surface people will only hear the sounds of a dusty lo-fi psychedelic pop band, but dig deeper and you’ll hear that Full Flower Moon Band managed to make the first real modern classic with their debut EP “CHINATOWN EP.” I was not present when bands like Slint and My Bloody Valentine released their landmark records (“Spiderland” and “Loveless”) and I came to Slayer long after they released “Reign In Blood” but I have no doubt that “CHINATOWN EP” will not only be as influential as those records but that people will come to see that Full Flower Moon Band destroyed, erased and improved (to steal a Meshuggah line) music as an art form.

The reason why these above bands are important to me illustrating the importance of “CHINATOWN” is because the albums these bands released allowed for music to be presented in a different light. A record like “Spiderland” by Slint for instance is a truly mysterious record and over time has become incredibly influential to evolving how humans hear and perform rock music. The same can be said about “Loveless” by My Bloody Valentine and “Reign In Blood” by Slayer. These albums presented new ideas on how to make the simple amalgamation of guitar, bass, drums and vocals work and in the process birthed such genre titles as post-rock, math-rock, shoegaze and thrash metal. I don’t think I’d be too foolish for saying that Slint, My Bloody Valentine and Slayer changed the game totally and offered new sounds and dynamics to the rock n roll text book.

In 2015, Full Flower Moon Band became the first band in 20 years to release an EP as life changing and important to the evolution of music as the above mentioned artists (and countless others of course). What “CHINATOWN EP” represents is how music, at least rock n roll, should have evolved. There is nothing retro or throwback about the music played by Full Flower Moon Band and over the course of 5 songs they manage to showcase a brilliant understanding of emotionally fueled psychedelic guitar rock.

 

Album Of The Year

“Sword” by Angharad Drake

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The third record from Angharad Drake is called “Sword” and is the kind of movement of music that I’d define as perfection. It is very simple in its execution but again comes down to the mood and how Drake approaches the melodic structure of each song. Drake saturates each song with darkness and a spooky whisper and it becomes hard not to be pulled into her psyche. This is real journeyperson material and you can hear that Drake has lived every inch of pain contained within the lyrics.  There are also pinches of resolve and hope swirling in and out of the songs but it is more attached to an acceptance of ones weirdness as opposed to anything found in positive thinking handbooks.

As is the case with all good pop music, the intensity is front and centre and Drake doesn’t waste time grabbing your soul and taking you on a journey through the dark and light regions of our existence and the other dimensions she is channelling. Drake makes both very intellectual but also very spiritual music and when you mix the science with the soul you get a beating heart that is well balanced and rooted in purity.

The album kicks off with a trio of songs (Intro, Sword and You) that are a simple gallop of smiles and bummer sunshine. They move around with the confusion of the early stages of a new romance. It has a beautiful innocence and weaves stories that are equally a plea for connection and a yearning for a new bliss blackout and the complication of first kisses and late Sunday night wishes. It shimmers and shines with pop skills and drags you into the elegant world of Angharad Drake.

This initial introduction moves beautifully into my favourite moment “Water.” This is one of those rare songs that comes around every few years and totally changes the genre for which it belongs. A simple pop song at its core, “Water” takes us on a journey giving a full spotlight on the complicated emotions that influenced the song. It takes you away to blissed out landscapes and you find yourself investing in the journey. A great blend of teen angst and early twenties hope and the song stands as both a roar towards past heartbreak and a whisper to the future lover.

The remaining stretch of songs on this album follow a similar trend and I found myself listening to tracks like “Majesty,” “Down” and “Lone” a few times trying to work out if the songs were autobiographical or an observation on the destructive pattern associated with watching best friends descending into relationship drama.  Regardless of whether they are fact or fiction these would be the perfect songs for any coming of age drama movie with that garden state pinch of comedy.

The final track “Nobody Believes” is the perfect closer to this way too short album. It brings everything together quite nicely and is the triumphant final breath to this emotional journey. It makes me feel like I’m travelling in slow motion from the steam of old friendships, old lovers and heading straight for a new kind of sunshine. It’s a “satisfied mind” ending to the adventure and thrill of being a teenager in love. It resolves itself with a youthful optimism and a commitment to a new journey, a new self and a new landscape of shivers.

Angharad Drake is a bright light in an often predictable and redundant landscape of singer songwriters. Her music is dark and moody and is clearly influenced by the many different faces of music. It has a progressive heartbeat in the way that Sarah Blasko did but to my ears it also has something special attached to it the way that artists like Joanna Newsom and Tori Amos do. I’m quite a big fan of this album and I can’t wait to see how Angharad Drake evolves this sophisticated sound on her future releases. I only hope it grows darker in its delivery and we get to experience an even deeper and more intense journey than the one being hinted at on “Sword.”

Music review wankerisms aside, what does Angharad Drake’s “Sword” album mean to me?

When I listen to “Sword” I get tangled in the memory of all of the human beings I’ve have either loved romantically or had an extreme crush on. There is a simple frame of yearning and desire around every inch of these songs but also a hungry desperation that flirts with the notion of being jealous. It isn’t the kind of envy that is cruel or funded on insecurity it is more the kind of jealous nature that exists inside the empathetic and passionate souls who love without of any thought of reward and who need the rush of love, with all of its joy and pain, to feel alive and in touch with their artistic muse.

Love is the kind of emotion that has the capacity to fuel every positive and negative emotion inside of you but that is also the challenge of love, to have the darkness and the light of it infect you to the point where you end up having to accept all of it.

If you listen to “Sword” and you are in love with someone who is also in love with you then the album will sound like a defensive narrative or plea to the outside world to not pollute the dynamic you share with that other human being because there is nothing more frightening than an external world acting in a destructive manner to disrupt the rhythm of your relationship.

If you listen to this album from the perspective of simply being in a “crush” like situation then once again from a narrative point of view “Sword” highlights that you are simply watching that person you have extreme feelings for being taken away from you by weaker human beings who won’t love them in the way you know you’re capable of doing.  This album acts as a battle cry for when you will one day find the courage to strike and make that connection with that human and to give your love an entry point.

Regardless of which category you fall into when you listen to “Sword” there is a loneliness that hangs in both situations. Both of the above life situations provide any human being with a loneliness that is at times suffocating, dripping with all kinds of confused longing and swooned aggression giving you suspended periods of time in the darkness of your own mind. It is in these moments of reflection that you either arrive at an explosive moment of clarity or a cluttered yet hopeless stained generation of silent sadness.

That is the power of what “Sword” communicates as an album in its slacked out bliss and swirls of seductive rage. “Sword” is another flawless example of why Angharad Drake is shaping up to be not just a popular musician but an important artist and trust me we need more artists among the indie pop stars. I am just so glad that finally someone modern took the time to scatter all of this depth and yearning into their music; it makes the world a better place knowing that Angharad Drake’s music exists.

 

EP Of The Year

“Dynamics Of Disobedience” by Michelle Xen

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Michelle Xen makes beautifully violent music about the absolute destruction that occurs when someone you love breaks your heart, it is pure ache. If you listen to any of her songs you can hear the blood all over the tracks. She is bleeding every inch of herself into the music and as a listener it is an exhausting and overwhelming process listening to it. The music itself is so incredibly confronting that if you’re not prepared for it, it can take your breath away and leave you confused. Michelle is a powerful communicator and you have to erase all distractions when you sit down to listen to her music.

So with this in mind, when I sat down to listen to Michelle’s latest EP “Dynamics Of Disobedience” earlier this month. I took some time off work and locked myself away with this beautiful piece of art for a few days in order to get immersed in every inch of it.

The results were positive from the get go. I fell in love with it on impact and connected to the loneliness nestled at the centre of each new song. These weren’t break up songs; this was a roar and a plea for someone to please understand just who you are. The rawness of it all can really cut deep and when you start musing on the lyrics you find yourself drifting deeper into your memories to remember every person who has ever broken your heart.

Musically, the minimalism approach of this EP is spot on and the focus on rhythm almost gives it a hip hop quality. The drums and percussion along with the synths add to the violence of Michelle’s emotional delivery. It makes for a wonderful journey.

After spending a good part of November addicted to this album, I had to disconnect because it started to haunt me just how intense these songs could be. This EP became an obsession and it started to influence every aspect of how I myself wanted to create. I already put Michelle Xen on a pedestal but with this EP, I escalated to full fan boy and honestly felt that unless I made music like the songs found on “Dynamics Of Disobedience” then I wasn’t making pure emotional music.

Luckily I pulled the plug and realised that I was under the spell of Michelle Xen – she gets me every time – and that of course you can make emotional music any which way you want. That all being said I still think that Michelle Xen makes the purest and rawest sounds ever and this EP is the perfect horror movie for anyone still suffering the spook of past lovers.

Michelle Xen is 100 per cent perfection and I love her music more than I can put into words.

 

Single Of The Year

“Matter” by Amanda Merdzan

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In 2013 I had the pleasure of reviewing an EP by the incredibly talented Amanda Merdzan. In my final paragraph of that review I wrote the following:

“Sometimes you love to have your world challenged by music and other times you just want the music to help give purpose to your own pain. Amanda’s music falls in to the latter category for sure and while it may not be dynamically weird or envelope pushing music stylistically, the music itself is carried and ignited by Amanda’s deep emotional world and that is what is put on full display with “The Map Has Been Redrawn.” This EP is a perfect glimpse of an artist who has just uttered her first musical communication and I feel after both personal and musical growth we’ll see Amanda combine her world class songwriting with some intense experimentation to birth a sound that is unique to her muse.

I can’t wait to see what comes next from Amanda Merdzan and I’ve got a feeling that she’ll do some very interesting things making beautiful future music that goes deeper and weirder.”

After following her career with a feverish desire to know “what will come next” I was absolutely blown away when she sent me her new single “Matter” which was released digitally earlier this year. Instantly I was blown away by the creative leaps taken and although we can talk about the aesthetic changes made, the real joy of this new song is the emotional performance that comes through in Merdzan’s vocals and melodic delivery. We finally hear Amanda finding her own voice and although her debut EP provided the significant vehicle for her stories to be told, on “Matter” she truly sounds comfortable and like she has settled on a sound that better communicates all that haunts her.

The simple lyric refrains of “Matter” explode with a sullen sigh that wrap around your own sadness and amplify’s that desperate need for human connection. This is a song about the true sting of loneliness and that simple plea we all carry inside of us to be understood and loved unconditionally by another human being. To issue a degree of sacrifice and surrender in order to truly commit to love.

The music of “Matter” slithers with a spooky degree of late night malaise almost sounding claustrophobic in its attempt to be spacious. The minimal electronic pulses wonderfully give a modern context to an old world pain. It all collides together to create a timeless piece of escapism that gives the listener the opportunity to apply their own meaning to the song. I just fucking drift away to so many places when I hear “Matter” and my life has been enriched beyond belief because of this song.

It’s quite obvious that Amanda is on a new journey of self-discovery. Her music has taken on more meaning as a result and taking genre laws out of the equation the real victory of “Matter” is that she is finding a way to be more direct with the complicated emotions that she is drawing from for inspiration. I’m honestly so excited about this song and what the future holds for Amanda Merdzan.

 

Top Eleven Bands / Artists Of 2015

  1. Sophie Lowe
  2. Michelle Xen
  3. Amanda Merdzan
  4. Full Flower Moon Band
  5. Angharad Drake
  6. Alanna Eileen
  7. FOREVR
  8. Major Leagues
  9. Ayla
  10. Eves The Behavior
  11. Avaberée

Top Eleven Albums / Singles / EP’s of 2015

1. “Sword” by Angharad Drake
2. “EP 1” and “EP 2” by Sophie Lowe
3.  “Dynamics Of Disobedience” by Michelle Xen
4.  “Chinatown EP” by Full Flower Moon Band
5.  “The Haze” by We All Want To
6. “Electrical” by Eves The Behavior
7.  “Someone Sometime” by Major Leagues
8. “Stallin” by Airling
9.  “Vice” by Grrl Pal
10. “Demonstration” by FOREVR
11. “I Don’t Feel So Alive” by Gabriella Cohen

This was the music that dominated the Heavy and Weird stereo and the music that made that most impact.

In terms of my own personal top eleven albums of 2015 well here they are:

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Number One – “Sol Invictus” by FAITH NO MORE

This was probably the easiest decision of my whole list – I think this album was always destined to take out my number one spot. I’ve been a life long fan of FAITH NO MORE and I’ve waited every inch of that 18 years for the moment when they may re-enter the world with a new album. The reunion that began back in 2009 was exciting enough but I was less curious in the nostalgia of a live show and more interested in what the band might be able to offer creatively. In that 18 years we got a whole new generation of Mike Patton related projects that helped enrich the lives of people, like myself, who adored his creative genius. As fulfilling as those projects were, it always made me wonder how he’d attack a new FAITH NO MORE record if given the opportunity.

On Friday the 15th May 2015 I got to have those questions answered and the results exceeded my expectations. It took me two listens before I truly locked in with the genius of “Sol Invictus” and once I let it in there has been no record released since that can match it. The band managed to make a modern rock masterpiece that showcases just what seasoned creative professionals they are. All of the familiar aesthetics are lent on but we now get 18 years of new creative dialogues seeping into the mix helping elevate the music to new territory.

Despite having one of the most influential discographies in the history of rock music, FAITH NO MORE’S previous albums weren’t without their flaws. As a fan I adore each and every one of them but I can understand the complaint that on occasion their albums may have lacked cohesion with the creative schizophrenia of each record causing some lag in proceedings. I always put this down to a band striving to figure itself out and always being in a transitional state, searching for the ultimate sound that best expresses the talents of each individual within the band. With maturity FAITH NO MORE have conquered that youthful defect and manged to deliver 10 flawless tracks and scientifically and spiritually the best FAITH NO MORE album to date.

All in All, my personal resonance with this band is so extremely over the top that it could have been an experimental album full of nothing and I still would have rated it above everything else. I just think and believe that whether this album allows for the band to continue making music or not doesn’t really matter because with “Sol Invictus” we finally got to glimpse once again what a special band FAITH NO MORE are and how despite their widespread influence on the rock music aesthetic that they never really got the respect for it. While other artists are content at attempting musical re-invention through nostalgic building blocks other artists are actually trying to avoid that and are trying to find something unique to say. FAITH NO MORE are the band you can rely on to at least try and make future music.

FAITH NO MORE were never allowed or invited to the party so that is why when you let them in they are free to shit all over your carpet and when they shit on your carpet there is nothing you can do about it because only true artists get the privilege of dipping their assholes onto your floor and ruining your understanding of the universe.

May they live for a million years

 

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Number Two – “Purple” by BARONESS

This album is an incredible collection of rock music – I thought the band had made their masterpiece with 2012’s “Yellow and Green” but I was wrong, “Purple” is that album. An extreme collision of all the aesthetics that make BARONESS one of the most important rock bands of our modern era. Those who have heard it know just how powerful this album is. I sincerely hope that this record allows for BARONESS to be elevated to some higher levels in terms of mainstream success because this album deserves to be soaked up and celebrated by stadiums of human beings.
Let me say again, I don’t know why or how the whole “rock is dead” mantra is allowed to be paraded around because there are such a strong group of modern rock bands like BARONESS who are taking the genre to some extremely “right on” new places.

“Purple” is a flawless masterpiece

 

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Number Three – “Higher Truth” by CHRIS CORNELL

This is the solo album longtime fans of CHRIS CORNELL have been waiting for since “Euphoria Morning.” Although CORNELL has attempted re-invention with his solo career (as heard on 2007’s “Carry On” and 2009’s “Scream”) it has never made so much sense as it did with the 2011 release of his live acoustic record “Songbook” which showed that CORNELL is at his best when its just his voice and his acoustic guitar. I’d even argue that my own personal desire for a more acoustic driven CORNELL release stems back to the song “Seasons” from the soundtrack to 1992’s premiere Grunge era couples film “Singles.” On “Higher Truth” CHRIS CORNELL delivers 12 tracks of acoustic driven rock music that beautifully showcases what a master songwriter he is. The inclusion of Brendan O’Brien as producer helps give the record the direction it needed although I was interested to hear that prior to settling on O’Brien CORNELL was working with Alain Johannes. Perhaps that material will surface at some point but for now we have a brilliant record from one of my personal heroes.
This album provided comfort to me during an incredibly dark time of 2015 when my own mortality was challenged. In those moments, only great voices and human beings like CHRIS CORNELL will suffice and for that reason alone “Higher Truth” will be a life long musical companion.

 

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Number Four – “New Bermuda” by DEAFHEAVEN

This band makes the kind of music that I dreamed about back when I was a teenager in the late 1990’s – in short, believe the hype. This is the band who showed the world that they are not trying hard enough when it comes to the composistion of meaningful future music. I know the purists hate it but the purists are flawed by their own limitations. This album is something you need to experience on your own with a good pair of headphones. I suspect that the best is still yet to come from DEAFHEAVEN and in 20 years time they will also be the band your children will wish you were cool enough to be a fan of.

 

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Number Five – “No Cities To Love” by SLEATER-KINNEY

One of the true joys of 2015 was to know that SLEATER-KINNEY had released a new album. The bands previous album “The Woods” was a life changer for me and stands as my favourite record from their very flawless discography. In a lot of ways “No Cities To Love” goes further and deeper than “The Woods” in terms of re-invention. In 32 Minutes and 17 Seconds SLEATER-KINNEY remind the world why they are one of the greatest rock bands to ever exist. In true “reign in blood” fashion the real key to “No Cities To Love” is the way in which it covers so much territory but does it in a very economical way. Yet another reminder of how important the guitar is to the communication of complex human emotions and further proof that SLEATER-KINNEY are rightfully poised to establish their position in not just underground culture but also mainstream culture as the band that can help restore peace to the galaxy.

 

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Number Six – “Luminiferous” by HIGH ON FIRE

There are no words to describe the love I have for HIGH ON FIRE and the sound they make. The best I can do is to say that the band manages to mix the fierce thrash sounds of SLAYER with the harsh sludge experimentation’s of THE MELVINS but even that seems like I’m selling them short. The main creative vehicle for riff magician Matt Pike since 1998 and a band long associated with quality album releases. Those who have experienced the might and power of HIGH ON FIRE’S discography (2000’s “The Art of Self Defense,” 2002’s “Surrounded by Thieves,” 2005’s “Blessed Black Wings,” 2007’s “Death Is This Communion,” 2010’s “Snakes for the Divine” and 2012’s “De Vermis Mysteriis”) understand the extreme rush provided and with “Luminiferous” HIGH ON FIRE deliver another masterpiece. This is heavy metal at its finest from a true master of the genre and as I’ve mentioned further down the page, it angers me that so many shallow minded modern music media website dickcuntstiffyfuckstains are bold enough to announce that rock is dead. How can you fucking say that when a band like HIGH ON FIRE continues to exist and churn out quality record after quality record. I look forward to 2035 when I’m 52 years old and I get to say to all the new school hip brigade “I WAS FUCKING THERE YOU YOUNG USELESS CUNTS” when they all pretend to be HIGH ON FIRE aficionados. This is the band that people will talking about in 20 years from now and this album is a modern classic.

 

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Number Seven – “VII: Sturm und Drang” by LAMB OF GOD

“VII: Sturm und Drang” is Lamb Of God’s seventh studio album and could quite possibly be their best. I know this is a bold claim considering that Lamb Of God are responsible for some of the new millenniums greatest metal albums but on this record the band manages to finally rise to the occasion and become the superstar Metal group they have always been hinting at. The band finally embraces melodic vocals and I think this is a dynamic that could be explored on a deeper level on future releases from here. I think my love of Pantera is what fuels my love of Lamb Of God and because sometimes metal needs a mainstream voice and with “VII: Sturm und Drang” Lamb of God remind us why they have been that voice for the past 20 or so years. This record is just so enjoyable and such a re-birth.

 

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Number Eight “Repentless” – by SLAYER

This is the first time I’ve enjoyed listening to a new SLAYER album since 2001’s “God Hates Us All” and even though 2006’s “Christ Illusion” and 2009’s “World Painted Red” were solid records they didn’t have the special ingredients needed to make a SLAYER album a true classic. In a lot of ways both “Christ Illusion” and “World Painted Red” had a lot in common with the bands 1990’s output (1994’s “Divine Intervention,” 1996’s “Undisputed Attitude” and 1998’s “Diabolus In Musica”) in the sense that it was just a band sticking to the formula with 1996’s cover album “Undisputed Attitude” being the most diverse sounding record of the aforementioned trilogy. In a lot of ways “Repentless” sticks to the formula but this time round it seems to work and sound more energetic and more SLAYER than ever. The band has been able to move swiftly into the future despite the horrific passing of the bands leading creative force Jeff Hanneman. I adore SLAYER and at this point of my life, I’m just happy to hear the band release new music. Perhaps Hanneman’s passing gave the remaining members reason to go deeper and perhaps that is why “Repentless” is such a special record. Either way, listening to this album has been a daily ritual since its release and whether or not this is the full stop to the SLAYER story or a bold new chapter doesn’t really matter because at the end of the day this band has no more reasons to reinvent a genre they helped create. Just having them still be here all these years later is a blessing and any year that SLAYER releases a new album is set to be a good year.

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Number Nine – “High Country” by THE SWORD

After four flawless albums of heavy metal THE SWORD continue their quest for world domination and deliver us their most diverse record to date, the unbelievalby good “High Country.” This album marks a change in musical style with the band experimenting with their doom / sludge roots shifting their sound to a more classic hard rock sound. This will no doubt alienate long time fans of the band, but I personally love the new direction and realistiaclly they have been hinting at this sound ever since 2010’s new modern classic “Warp Riders.” A lot of the new tunes have a melodic southern rock vibe similar to to that of seminal hard rock bands Thin Lizzy and ZZ Top. Ultimately the album has everything from folk to pop to boogie to straight-up rock and it never leans on the nostalgia, if anything these older styles help boost the bands sound to more dynamic places and gives them room to grow from here. Considering every dickbagstaincunt writing for websites like FasterLouder and all those other clickbait modern music media sites across the world are quick to write such think pieces like “rock is dead” it makes you wonder why or how they miss albums by bands like THE SWORD who are clearly making vital rock music for the 21st Century. In short, although rock music may not be as popular in the mainstream sense there is still a lot of interesting guitar music being made – with “High Country,” THE SWORD go back to basics and help give their second decade as a band an interesting new twist.

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Number Ten – “Money Shot” by PUSCIFER
All of those fools complaining about no new music from TOOL really need to take a few steps back and reflect on the fact that once you make albums like “Undertow,” “Ænima,” “Lateralus,” and “10,000 Days” and in the process create a whole bunch of new rock music aesthetics that lesser humans rip off to this day then you can sit back and take as much fucking time as you want to create more music. Maybe if more of you TOOL fanboys spent more time actually attempting to be original instead of ripping the band off then we’d have some newer bands who match the intellect of what TOOL provide the rock music landscape. Instead, you’ll all no doubt jerk off over your odd time signatures and because you lack any sense of humour you’ll continue to miss the point of why TOOL are just as much about Comedy as they are Spiritual Awakenings. That’s the only negative thing about no new TOOL music – in the interim we have to fucking put up and tolerate all of these unoriginal dick stain rich boy rejects starting another TOOL rip off band whilst sitting there attempting to educate the world on how important it is to “wake up” – we get it, but look a bit deeper and you’ll start to realise that they were only fucking with you and it’s all a big elaborate dick joke – but I digress. As long as PUSCIFER exist I am content. Once again Maynard James Keenan celebrates his humanity through a strong collection of music continuing the story of 2011’s “Conditions Of My Parole.” There is nothing more healing than hearing Maynard James Keenan croon over these spacious electronic grooves. The minimalist approach helps give focus to his voice and as always its fucking flawless. The voice of Carina Round also blends beautifully to help create some “other world” type atmospheres with the production skills of Mat Mitchell giving life to Maynard’s vision. A beautiful record for people who understand that the trick to making meaningful and intense music is to have a good sense of humour
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Number Eleven – “Meliora” by GHOST
GHOST’S music has been categorised in many genres from heavy metal to doom metal to hard rock, and to a lesser extent progressive rock and psychedelic rock. I’ve always felt that they were just a great rock band that lean on all of the wonderful aesthetics previously mentioned. Whilst the band is framed by old school cliches and imagary the main thing that makes this band special is their ability to write great pop music. Despite it being all hard and heavy the true delight of “Meliora” are all those glorious melodies. At a time when bands attempt to be heavier through aggression it’s nice to hear a band go deep and dark and heavier with the use of sweet pop melodies. This was a record I found hard to remove from my stereo because it is just deliciously infectious. A lot of the time musicians will try and re-invent the wheel which always has various results. Sometimes the best music just does the simple things right and GHOST do just that. Great hooks and Great Riffs. For fans of great pop music and great rock music.
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 That’s all I’ve got for 2015 – look forward to sharing more music with you in 2016. My prediction – 2016 will be all about Emma Louise and Deftones – and perhaps, just maybe I’ll fall in love xo

All words and music experienced by Dan Newton

 

 

 

 

 

 

EP REVIEW: “Chinatown EP” by Full Flower Moon Band

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Every morning when I wake up the first thought I have is “well, I wonder if today is the day I’m going to die” – this mantra is not an exercise in morbidity or a plea for some kind of help, it is an essential part of my existence. To avoid cliché I won’t focus too heavily on this topic but I feel it is vital for me to spotlight that death, however frequent or infrequent it is in your thoughts, motivates everything. It inspires the two essential building blocks of life which is choosing either love or fear. To reduce life to two rather basic emotions may seem absurd but in my opinion somehow each day we manage to latch on to some kind of death coping mechanism. It is these distractions that help further our fear of the unknown and that one day all of this will fade and each human we encounter will slip into the beautiful realm of nothingness to discover whether god has a face or if this ocean of chaos is merely leading us to the ultimate realm of blank peace. I end my day in the very same way, with the same mantra only this time I’m wondering if “tomorrow” will be the day that I die. Treating life like it is indeed borrowed time allows for a great amount of beauty to visit every second of your existence, death is and always will be the ultimate muse.

In the spring of 2015 I discovered an EP by a band called Full Flower Moon Band – the name of that EP is “CHINATOWN EP” and I think it is the perfect soundtrack to my morning (and late night) mantra. It is an EP that truly communicates the power of music and if anything signals just how important a band like Full Flower Moon Band is to the equality movement that so many human beings preach about. I could be totally off in this assumption but I like to think that Full Flower Moon Band themselves are big believers in eradicating the redundant restrictions of musical genres because anyone who has an open heart and open mind will hear their EP and see it as one of the most pure movements of music ever released.

It’s taken me a while to write this review because I wanted to make sure that like Full Flower Moon Band I take the time to communicate just what is important about their music. I understand that on the surface people will only hear the sounds of a dusty lo-fi psychedelic pop band, but dig deeper and you’ll hear that Full Flower Moon Band managed to make the first real modern classic. I was not present when bands like Slint and My Bloody Valentine released their landmark records (“Spiderland” and “Loveless”) and I came to Slayer long after they released “Reign In Blood” but I have no doubt that “CHINATOWN EP” will not only be as influential as those records but that people will come to see that Full Flower Moon Band destroyed, erased and improved (to steal a Meshuggah line) music as an art form.

The reason why these above bands are important to me illustrating the importance of “CHINATOWN” is because the albums these bands released allowed for music to be presented in a different light. A record like “Spiderland” by Slint for instance is a truly mysterious record and over time has become incredibly influential to evolving how humans hear and perform rock music. The same can be said about “Loveless” by My Bloody Valentine and “Reign In Blood” by Slayer. These albums presented new ideas on how to make the simple amalgamation of guitar, bass, drums and vocals work and in the process birthed such genre titles as post-rock, math-rock, shoegaze and thrash metal. I don’t think I’d be too foolish for saying that Slint, My Bloody Valentine and Slayer changed the game totally and offered new sounds and dynamics to the rock n roll text book.

In 2015, Full Flower Moon Band became the first band in 20 years to release an EP as life changing and important to the evolution of music as the above mentioned artists (and countless others of course). What “CHINATOWN EP” represents is how music, at least rock n roll, should have evolved. There is nothing retro or throwback about the music played by Full Flower Moon Band and over the course of 5 songs they manage to showcase a brilliant understanding of emotionally fuelled psychedelic guitar rock.

The music presented on “CHINATOWN EP” is an epic journey of pink steam meditations on beauty and destruction. First you’ll travel the distance of time given colour and shape by your memories. The canvas is full of faces and places their personalities controlled by the beat of a panic radiating like a thousand rising suns deep beneath your heart. Your brain will gather lovers of all kinds to fill them with the soul of a million demons bleeding rushing to be released from the daggers possessing the peacock’s eye planted within their looking glass soul, essentially trading arms for snakes. The venom of these memories attacks with a bite fresh from the teeth of confusion as mirrors crack and re-align with the curse of loneliness. These vibrations are ripe with footprints left from old waves of thought dripping the haunting manifestation of 32 deaths re-born. Silent screams become amplified, as panic becomes the river from which your exploded heart bleeds. Death tastes like heartache as you shake the dreams from your reality. Re-born in human form as you remain comfortable in the purgatory moments building the bridge to the place, because you’ve seen her face – and then you arrive in peace and as the blissed intensity of closing track “Chinatown (title track)” draws to a close you start to understand what shuffling off this mortal coil both sounds and potentially feels like.

I’m of the opinion that death fascinates us all because it is the one emotion or feeling that we can’t experience yet it is the one thing that we all have in common. No matter our journey or position in life we are all coping with the fact that we’ll die. Learning to cope with that one and only truth can lead humans to chase many different things. For me it is music and every so often you are delivered a movement of divinity so special that you think that just for a brief moment that death and all that leads you to it is a fucking beautiful series of events.

“CHINATOWN EP” by Full Flower Moon Band is pure Dadaism and the way pop music needs to sound in this modern era.

8 Cassette Tapes Out Of 10

By: Dan Newton

Useful Links:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/fullflowermoonband/
Soundcloud – https://soundcloud.com/fulllfowermoonband

EP REVIEW: “EP 1” and “EP 2” by Sophie Lowe

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I don’t mean to blush but I’ve been a fan of Sophie Lowe’s acting ever since I saw her in “The Slap” which lead me to her other films including “Beautiful Kate,” “After The Dark” and “Adore” – all of them are vital pieces of cinema and it is quite evident that Sophie is destined to make the big jump to Hollywood stardom. When I recently discovered that she was transitioning to music I was fucking ecstatic. As an actress Sophie is world class, a true artist and her skill for tackling highly complicated and emotional characters spills over into her music.

In 2015 Sophie released EP1 and EP 2 and when combined they weave together 12 delicious tracks that showcase pop music built on smart songwriting skills and deep emotional drama. With EP 1 and EP 2 we find Lowe venturing into sparse instrumental landscapes with her vocals delivering context to all that haunts her. It is real and incredibly raw commanding your attention. It is no doubt part of Lowe’s creative DNA that both EP 1 and EP 2 are cinematic in their presentation with the music allowing you to paint your own visuals when you shut your eyes and ease into the sound of her voice.

The music of both EP’s have a steady electronica vibe throughout and aesthetically is in debt to the swoon and slide of 1990’s trip hop pioneers Portishead. The sonics are stark and bare with Lowe utilising the space to really stretch out her vocals covering every inch of these tracks with her disciplined ache. Lyrically there are varying degrees of hurt, loss and despair circling the authors need and desire to be understood by those who share planet earth with her. On the surface it sounds like break-up songs but the plea for a mutual sharing of respect spreads itself to so many other possible scenarios where the dread of being misunderstood occurs.  This is music for the late night descent into heartbreak nostalgia and it does a fantastic job of framing all that is painful and all that is joyful about love.

As a singer, Lowe sounds uniquely beautiful and is able to balance the hushed dynamics of a crooner with the sweet shine of a pop singer. Combine this with her ability to experiment with different textures and moods and slowly you start to hear the rumblings of a true visionary who knows the perfect way to mix above and below ground rule books in order to communicate vital pieces of art. That is what makes both EP 1 and EP 2 so great and I just love every inch of it.

It’s no secret that there was a girl who stole my heart long ago and whose shape remains inside the soul of every yearning filled encounter I have with other female humans. Sometimes the fantasy is more pure than the reality and it is because of this that my mind remains her hostage with no real ransom available to dull the ache and set me free. It may be ridiculous to the non-believers but a muse can be murder especially when you search for the face of your yearning and some kind of remedy for sleepless Sundays. When love disappears, every brand new day is yours to fear with a grief so strong your eyes can’t hide it and as a result you build many walls around you to shield yourself from it all. Regardless of how much life I live in the meantime, she’ll hang in my heart forever. This yearning has a language that is heard only by the spirits with total belief that all this pity frames a scar and that in the end it will always remain as faith for the man and a kiss for the friend.

When I listen to Sophie Lowe as the vocalist I tend to slip into that place where that memory of love lost comes rushing back to me. The moment EP 1 and EP 2 on the stereo and plugged in my headphones I felt the sweet embrace of the chaotic emotional journey that is the sting of distant heartache memories. The music of Sophie Lowe provides the perfect soundtrack to this ache soaked journey.

This music is purely nocturnal and will always communicate more clearly between the hours of 9pm and 4am. Like the shadowy pulse of ex-lovers whispering into your ear there are memories of yearning (past, present and future) hiding inside the songs on EP 1 and EP 2. The darkness of it all allows you to trade your fetish for fiction and replace it with new kinds of motion and sequence. You’ll find yourself musing on the lifelong debate of flesh versus the spirit and as you try ever so hard to attach yourself to some innocence. No matter how hard you try that funeral march will continue to trickle down your belly.

The mystery present on songs like “Dreaming” and “Please” from EP 1 and “Pink Flowers” and “Breathe” from EP 2 pushing you to explore that shiver and all of that spooked out bliss she uses to suffocate your mind. You simply have to listen to the lyrics to see that Lowe is once again using very specific metaphors to illustrate her feelings and to allow your imagination to swoon and swing between joy and heartache. In the heat of the summer night Sophie Lowe uses her unique sonic language to penetrate all your angst as you hang spacious from the clutter of your hurt and safely drift away.

One of the real treats of this record is “Like I Do You” from EP 2 which presents a scene of catastrophe with a mood that balances what a monumental picture of hurt existence can be. Although peppered with a dense dark mood, “Like I Do You” still has a bright spark weaving in and out of it. The joy that is the satellite in your heart is what connects to this song, especially the “Like I Do You” refrains – that line gives meaning to the constant quest to transmit to all of those secret faces.

When you’re looking at life through innocent eyes it seems love and desire are quite simple, but sometimes it wounds and it’s so very smooth. That is when music like Sophie Lowe’s sounds best, when you are wounded yet optimistic. This is the kind of music that fires up your romantic imagination making you feel like that somewhere out there he or she waits and that 84 will be worth living for.

I’m sure I won’t be the only one featuring Sophie Lowe on my end of year lists – I can’t wait for her to release a full length album because if EP 1 and EP 2 are merely a glimpse then I can imagine that with time Sophie Lowe will become one of my favourite artists of all time.

10 Cassette Tapes out of 10

By: Dan Newton

EP 1

 

EP 2

 

(Editor’s Note: part of this review contains exerts from an original review I posted of Sophie’s single “Understand” back in July 2015 – my initial review gave the perfect description of how I reacted to Sophie’s EP’s so it only felt right to re-edit and add some new thoughts to these paragraphs.)

Useful Links:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/sophielowemusic
Soundcloud – http://www.soundcloud.com/sophielowemusic
YouTube – http://www.youtube.com/user/lowesophie
Official Website – http://www.sophielowemusic.com

SINGLE REVIEW: “When The World Ends” and “Waiting” by Ayla

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After listening to Ayla’s latest singles “When The World Ends” and “Waiting” for the past few months it became clear to me that she is a master of making emotional music with depth and pop music sensibilities whilst allowing space for some modern flourishes to her old world sounding voice. The music aside, that is where Ayla’s true talent is – her amazing soul drenched voice. She commands your attention with her overwhelmingly intense performance and the best part is that all its texture and tone is original and striving to be its own unique sound. As a music reviewer it is always the most refreshing thing to hear when new music comes into your inbox, a voice that isn’t striving for nostalgia or striving to sound like someone else. On impact, Ayla gets me as a fan on that aesthetic alone.

“When The World Ends” is a sultry introduction signalling the moment you awake from a summer steam soaked dream to a brand new horizon of wonder. The essential emotional question lingering underneath the heartbeat of this song is “are you waking up with regret for taking them home or are you musing on regret for the fact that you didn’t actually ask for a kiss on the ride home?” It’s all simple teenage chord movements with the loneliness of youth beating at its emotional core. It is the perfect song to soundtrack the opening montage, setting the ground for characters and plot to be established. The track is clearly a plea to that unrequited love who keeps escaping your grip and who just hasn’t understood just how much you love them. There is blood all over this track; the lyrics are full of the summer holidays yearn and the sting of “what do I have to do to make him / her love me?” It feels like this song was written while everyone else was busy having fun and all you could do was think about them and the only way to dull the ache was listen to some swoon and write a heartbreaker.

 

“Waiting” is the next logical step of a summer spent yearning for the “she or he” that you can’t have. This is a total ode to the kind of crush you have for a motion picture actor / actress during a summer time yearn, the only thing that will dull the pain, same themes as “When The World Ends” but a different colour.  I like “Waiting” quite a lot as it perfectly captures that shattering moment when you see the “she or he” and just how that moment just shapes your emotions and puts a mix of swoon and ache into your day. You reach the point where you are so in love it is physically hurting you, you can’t breathe and the thought of him or her is like a subtle degree of suffocation. The “ He or She” is both the oxygen and the beautiful disease cutting you off from reality and life itself. These are the kind of teenage love songs I still love hearing as a 32 year old human being because nothing was as pure or as vicious as falling in love in your late teens / early twenties.

 

I like the stories contained within these songs and the emotion in which they were delivered.

This is a very promising start and I can’t wait for a full length album.

8 Cassette Tapes Out Of 10

By: Dan Newton

Useful Links:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/AylaLive

ALBUM REVIEW: “Sword” by Angharad Drake

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The third record from Angharad Drake is called “Sword” and is the kind of movement of music that I’d define as perfection. It is very simple in its execution but again comes down to the mood and how Drake approaches the melodic structure of each song. Drake saturates each song with darkness and a spooky whisper and it becomes hard not to be pulled into her psyche. This is real journeyperson material and you can hear that Drake has lived every inch of pain contained within the lyrics.  There are also pinches of resolve and hope swirling in and out of the songs but it is more attached to an acceptance of ones weirdness as opposed to anything found in positive thinking handbooks.

As is the case with all good pop music, the intensity is front and centre and Drake doesn’t waste time grabbing your soul and taking you on a journey through the dark and light regions of our existence and the other dimensions she is channelling. Drake makes both very intellectual but also very spiritual music and when you mix the science with the soul you get a beating heart that is well balanced and rooted in purity.

The album kicks off with a trio of songs (Intro, Sword and You) that are a simple gallop of smiles and bummer sunshine. They move around with the confusion of the early stages of a new romance. It has a beautiful innocence and weaves stories that are equally a plea for connection and a yearning for a new bliss blackout and the complication of first kisses and late Sunday night wishes. It shimmers and shines with pop skills and drags you into the elegant world of Angharad Drake.

This initial introduction moves beautifully into my favourite moment “Water.” This is one of those rare songs that comes around every few years and totally changes the genre for which it belongs. A simple pop song at its core, “Water” takes us on a journey giving a full spotlight on the complicated emotions that influenced the song. It takes you away to blissed out landscapes and you find yourself investing in the journey. A great blend of teen angst and early twenties hope and the song stands as both a roar towards past heartbreak and a whisper to the future lover.

The remaining stretch of songs on this album follow a similar trend and I found myself listening to tracks like “Majesty,” “Down” and “Lone” a few times trying to work out if the songs were autobiographical or an observation on the destructive pattern associated with watching best friends descending into relationship drama.  Regardless of whether they are fact or fiction these would be the perfect songs for any coming of age drama movie with that garden state pinch of comedy.

The final track “Nobody Believes” is the perfect closer to this way too short album. It brings everything together quite nicely and is the triumphant final breath to this emotional journey. It makes me feel like I’m travelling in slow motion from the steam of old friendships, old lovers and heading straight for a new kind of sunshine. It’s a “satisfied mind” ending to the adventure and thrill of being a teenager in love. It resolves itself with a youthful optimism and a commitment to a new journey, a new self and a new landscape of shivers.

Angharad Drake is a bright light in an often predictable and redundant landscape of singer songwriters. Her music is dark and moody and is clearly influenced by the many different faces of music. It has a progressive heartbeat in the way that Sarah Blasko did but to my ears it also has something special attached to it the way that artists like Joanna Newsom and Tori Amos do. I’m quite a big fan of this album and I can’t wait to see how Angharad Drake evolves this sophisticated sound on her future releases. I only hope it grows darker in its delivery and we get to experience an even deeper and more intense journey than the one being hinted at on “Sword.”

Music review wankerisms aside, what does Angharad Drake’s “Sword” album mean to me?

When I listen to “Sword” I get tangled in the memory of all of the human beings I’ve have either loved romantically or had an extreme crush on. There is a simple frame of yearning and desire around every inch of these songs but also a hungry desperation that flirts with the notion of being jealous. It isn’t the kind of envy that is cruel or funded on insecurity it is more the kind of jealous nature that exists inside the empathetic and passionate souls who love without of any thought of reward and who need the rush of love, with all of its joy and pain, to feel alive and in touch with their artistic muse.

Love is the kind of emotion that has the capacity to fuel every positive and negative emotion inside of you but that is also the challenge of love, to have the darkness and the light of it infect you to the point where you end up having to accept all of it.

If you listen to “Sword” and you are in love with someone who is also in love with you then the album will sound like a defensive narrative or plea to the outside world to not pollute the dynamic you share with that other human being because there is nothing more frightening than an external world acting in a destructive manner to disrupt the rhythm of your relationship.

If you listen to this album from the perspective of simply being in a “crush” like situation then once again from a narrative point of view “Sword” highlights that you are simply watching that person you have extreme feelings for being taken away from you by weaker human beings who won’t love them in the way you know you’re capable of doing.  This album acts as a battle cry for when you will one day find the courage to strike and make that connection with that human and to give your love an entry point.

Regardless of which category you fall into when you listen to “Sword” there is a loneliness that hangs in both situations. Both of the above life situations provide any human being with a loneliness that is at times suffocating, dripping with all kinds of confused longing and swooned aggression giving you suspended periods of time in the darkness of your own mind. It is in these moments of reflection that you either arrive at an explosive moment of clarity or a cluttered yet hopeless stained generation of silent sadness.

That is the power of what “Sword” communicates as an album in its slacked out bliss and swirls of seductive rage. “Sword” is another flawless example of why Angharad Drake is shaping up to be not just a popular musician but an important artist and trust me we need more artists among the indie pop stars. I am just so glad that finally someone modern took the time to scatter all of this depth and yearning into their music; it makes the world a better place knowing that Angharad Drake’s music exists.

10 Cassette Tapes Out Of 10

By: Dan Newton

Useful Links:

Official Website – http://www.angharaddrake.com
Bandcamp – https://angharaddrake.bandcamp.com 
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/angharaddrake 

EP REVIEW: “Dynamics Of Disobedience” by Michelle Xen

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Michelle Xen makes beautifully violent music about the absolute destruction that occurs when someone you love breaks your heart, it is pure ache. If you listen to any of her songs you can hear the blood all over the tracks. She is bleeding every inch of herself into the music and as a listener it is an exhausting and overwhelming process listening to it. The music itself is so incredibly confronting that if you’re not prepared for it, it can take your breath away and leave you confused. Michelle is a powerful communicator and you have to erase all distractions when you sit down to listen to her music.

So with this in mind, when I sat down to listen to Michelle’s latest EP “Dynamics Of Disobedience” earlier this month. I took some time off work and locked myself away with this beautiful piece of art for a few days in order to get immersed in every inch of it.

The results were positive from the get go. I fell in love with it on impact and connected to the loneliness nestled at the centre of each new song. These weren’t break up songs; this was a roar and a plea for someone to please understand just who you are. The rawness of it all can really cut deep and when you start musing on the lyrics you find yourself drifting deeper into your memories to remember every person who has ever broken your heart.

Musically, the minimalism approach of this EP is spot on and the focus on rhythm almost gives it a hip hop quality. The drums and percussion along with the synths add to the violence of Michelle’s emotional delivery. It makes for a wonderful journey.

After spending a good part of November addicted to this album, I had to disconnect because it started to haunt me just how intense these songs could be. This EP became an obsession and it started to influence every aspect of how I myself wanted to create. I already put Michelle Xen on a pedestal but with this EP, I escalated to full fan boy and honestly felt that unless I made music like the songs found on “Dynamics Of Disobedience” then I wasn’t making pure emotional music.

Luckily I pulled the plug and realised that I was under the spell of Michelle Xen – she gets me every time – and that of course you can make emotional music any which way you want. That all being said I still think that Michelle Xen makes the purest and rawest sounds ever and this EP is the perfect horror movie for anyone still suffering the spook of past lovers.

Michelle Xen is 100 per cent perfection and I love her music more than I can put into words.

10 Cassette Tapes out of 10

By: Dan Newton

SINGLE REVIEW: “Matter” by Amanda Merdzan

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In 2013 I had the pleasure of reviewing an EP by the incredibly talented Amanda Merdzan. In my final paragraph of that review I wrote the following:

“Sometimes you love to have your world challenged by music and other times you just want the music to help give purpose to your own pain. Amanda’s music falls in to the latter category for sure and while it may not be dynamically weird or envelope pushing music stylistically, the music itself is carried and ignited by Amanda’s deep emotional world and that is what is put on full display with “The Map Has Been Redrawn.” This EP is a perfect glimpse of an artist who has just uttered her first musical communication and I feel after both personal and musical growth we’ll see Amanda combine her world class songwriting with some intense experimentation to birth a sound that is unique to her muse.

I can’t wait to see what comes next from Amanda Merdzan and I’ve got a feeling that she’ll do some very interesting things making beautiful future music that goes deeper and weirder.”

After following her career with a feverish desire to know “what will come next” I was absolutely blown away when she sent me her new single “Matter” which was released digitally earlier this year. Instantly I was blown away by the creative leaps taken and although we can talk about the aesthetic changes made, the real joy of this new song is the emotional performance that comes through in Merdzan’s vocals and melodic delivery. We finally hear Amanda finding her own voice and although her debut EP provided the significant vehicle for her stories to be told, on “Matter” she truly sounds comfortable and like she has settled on a sound that better communicates all that haunts her.

The simple lyric refrains of “Matter” explode with a sullen sigh that wrap around your own sadness and amplify’s that desperate need for human connection. This is a song about the true sting of loneliness and that simple plea we all carry inside of us to be understood and loved unconditionally by another human being. To issue a degree of sacrifice and surrender in order to truly commit to love.

The music of “Matter” slithers with a spooky degree of late night malaise almost sounding claustrophobic in its attempt to be spacious. The minimal electronic pulses wonderfully give a modern context to an old world pain. It all collides together to create a timeless piece of escapism that gives the listener the opportunity to apply their own meaning to the song. I just fucking drift away to so many places when I hear “Matter” and my life has been enriched beyond belief because of this song.

It’s quite obvious that Amanda is on a new journey of self-discovery. Her music has taken on more meaning as a result and taking genre laws out of the equation the real victory of “Matter” is that she is finding a way to be more direct with the complicated emotions that she is drawing from for inspiration. I’m honestly so excited about this song and what the future holds for Amanda Merdzan.

10 Cassette Tapes out of 10

By: Dan Newton

 

Useful Links:

Official Website – http://www.amandamerdzan.com
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/amandamerdzan

SINGLE REVIEW: “Doubt” and “Can’t Get You Off My Mind” by Avaberée

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The music of Avaberee is an incredible cool breeze that saturates your existence and stains you with shivers and sighs. A collective of intelligent songwriters who are melodically flawless with pop music being their main vehicle, but its more than bubblegum and fairy floss, this is the kind of pop music that has been birthed from a collective scar. Both “Doubt” and “Can’t Get You Off My Mind” are delicious little heart-breakers about all the complications of love, distance and the eternal need for the unrequited rush of yearning for some kind of escape. It is all bliss and beauty from a band who are poised to conquer the world with their refined other worldly shiver pop anthems.

8 Cassette Tapes Out Of 10

By: Dan Newton

 

 

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HERE IS NO WHY – an in-depth look at “Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness” by Smashing Pumpkins – Part Two – “In the slipstream, of thoughtless thoughts”

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“Porcelina of the Vast Oceans”

as far as you take me, that’s where i believe
the realm of soft delusions, floating on the laves
on a distant shoreline, she waves her arms to me
as all the thought police, and closing in for sleep
the dilly dally, of my bright lit stay
the steam of my misfortunes
has given me the power to be afraid
and in my mind i’m everyone
and in my mind
without a care in this whole world
without a care in this life
it’s what you take that makes it right
porcelina of the oceans blue
in the slipstream, of thoughtless thoughts
the light of all that’s good, the light of all that’s true
to the fringes gladly, i walk unadorned
with gods and their creations
with filth and disease
porcelina, she waits for me there
with seashell hissing lullabyes
and whispers fathomed deep inside my own
hidden thoughts and alibis
my secret thoughts come alive
without a care in this whole world
without a care in this life
it’s what you take that makes it right
and in my mind i’m everyone
in my mind i’m everyone of you
you make it right
it’s all alright
you make it right
porcelina of the oceans blue

I find it hard to explain to people the love I have for Billy Corgan as an artist and a human being. I’d love to say I have some kind of insight to Billy Corgan as a person after being a devotee to all his music for the past nineteen years of my life but the truth is my relationship with Billy Corgan is based solely on the music he has released with Smashing Pumpkins. That is where my understanding of him begins and that is where it ends.

Although I can name hundreds of other artists who are as equally as influential to me I always find that Billy Corgan wins out each time. There is some special energy inside of his vocals, guitar playing, melodic structure and overall songwriting technique that just plugs directly into every part of me and turns me on.  Although I find it difficult to articulate I have over the years reduced my reasoning to one very simple factor in terms of why Billy Corgan is my definition of the perfect creative human being. For me it is as simple as this, his voice, guitar playing and songwriting technique is the very definition of the ache.

The music he makes drips with all kinds of yearning and suggests emotions as opposed to announcing them. He deals in fantasy in order to paint you a picture of the intense emotions fuelling his music. Nothing is direct and I love that about his lyrics, they are vague yet cinematic in their delivery. It reads like nonsense poetry but when Billy Corgan sings his lyrics, the words become the perfect vehicle for escapism. Depending on where you find yourself they can help give context to your emotional drama or be the celebration song in a moment of pure joy.

Even though Billy Corgan has continued to produce amazing music, there is no greater example of his genius than “Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness” which for the past 20 years has been influencing every inch of the alternative rock landscape. To reflect on just how powerful this album is and how meaningful it is to me personally I have spent the last few weeks listening to nothing but Smashing Pumpkins. As is the case with all their music, this is a very nocturnal experience and a lot of my listening occurred via my headphones, alone in bed with the lights out. Last night as I was lying in bed, indulging this routine and waiting for sleep to kick in I found myself slipping into that weird space between the awake world and the unconscious world.

It is usually in this weird realm of relaxation that my thoughts are in overdrive and in my desperate need to get rest; my brain seems to overflow with memories, good ideas and an immaculate imagination. Depending on my mood it can be the perfect zone for joy but it can also yield some extreme terror and if I’m really bored I can slip into all kinds of awesome sexual lust. Even though I can navigate all three of those scenarios whilst in this state the one theme that permeates this collision of consciousness and unconsciousness is a still reflection on the notion that one day I’m going to die.

My imagination and sense of wonder will lock onto this thought no matter how happy or sad I am and wrestle with it until I all of a sudden just sink into the terrific paranoia of a life experience that I can’t fully grasp until it happens. My thoughts then start playing the counting game where I analyse my age and the distance from 30 to 60 and whether it will be a slow or quick transaction. I apply this maths to everyone I know and it can really start to feel like time is both an enemy and a friend.

When I shift out of the paranoia and into my imagination I start to wonder what is beyond me and how death is such an important part of life. I muse on the beauty of not existing and how one day I will shift from this world to complete nothingness. My imagination then takes the notion of this eternal nothingness and colours it with a potential landscape of the peaceful afterlife dream that I desire. I also reflect on how peaceful and satisfying death would be after living a satisfied life and achieving a satisfied mind. My higher self then whispers peace into my mind with any paranoia or fear left over simply being my human reaction to an experience that is both unattainable and unpredictable.

This is when my thoughts turn to just how important death is in terms of motivating human beings. It is at the centre of all our fears and no one is immune to the beautiful curse of this human uniform. I find death fascinating not because I am a morbid teenage angst vampire gothic human but because I love just how much it provides reason to how we interact with life and what kind of human we are. The idea of Death drives me to be more compassionate to family, friends, enemies and anyone I encounter, it is the one force that can drive us all together and also drive us all apart.

These thoughts of compassion cascade through all of my late night musings on death as I try to slip into unconsciousness and whether I wake up startled from these thoughts sighing to myself that “I’m going to die” or I open my eyes further to the beauty of life through the process of death doesn’t really matter, the point is it fires up my imagination and inspires me to live a life of compassion and imagination.

Last night, as I had these thoughts “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness” played through my headphones and provided the soundtrack to my escape.

As a band Smashing Pumpkins offer so much through the two hours plus of music on “Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness” and it will help assist you with all kinds of mind wandering. It is almost hypnotic with the way it pushes you deep inside your own mind.  The places it can take you when you’ve got the lights switched off are absolutely fucking tranquil. To lean on my introductory description for a moment, Smashing Pumpkins music has long been the perfect soundtrack to the experience I described, that relaxed reflection on death and your own mortality.

Smashing Pumpkins don’t just provide the vehicle for you to escape; they also assist in painting and naming your new landscape.

During my recent listening sessions of “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness” I found myself thinking about people and memories I hadn’t thought about for years. I started to swoon over girls I had attempted to forget due to how much pain it caused for me to remember them. I almost slipped into a vulnerable kind of forgiveness for all that love I gave but never received back from them. That is the kind of romance I love to muse on when I’m listening to music, I love that ache but I also like it to be vague and not direct.

Although “Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness” allowed me to reflect on the heartbreak it also put a focus on all those brand new crushes that I have and how beautiful and uncomplicated life is when you admire someone from afar, that thrill of a secret love. That kind of swoon is what oozes from so many of the tracks on this album.  Sure there is hurt inside of Smashing Pumpkins sound but there is also a healthy dose of fantasy.

This is when music is at its best, when it has the ability to sail through all of your emotional experiences sparking old memories whilst also inspiring an imaginary future full of colour and uncertainty. Great music will allow you to muse on Death with a healthy fascination (without all the morbid teenage angst) and give you the space to see the beauty in living and the power of your imagination. Escape is vital when it comes to consuming music as an art form, good music should take you away from yourself and into your own internal universe, a universe coloured with fact, fiction and beauty.

Over the course of “Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness” Smashing Pumpkins have managed to weave a journey that unfolds more and more with each listen.  If I was to classify the music on this album genre wise I’d define it as really great pop music because pop music should be progressive and heartfelt and have the ability to unfold something new every time you listen to it. Good pop music should be timeless and Smashing Pumpkins made a timeless record with “Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness” and it is full of timeless songs.  I personally find it impossible to drive them out of my head which again may come down to a resonance thing or the fact that Smashing Pumpkins are a pop band framed by the progressive dynamics of all the “alt-rock” related genres. I love it when pop music is progressive.

At the end of the day I attribute heavy metal to the success of this band and album because all great art has a heavy metal heart in some shape or form. That need for intensity and pure emotion over soda pop and bubble-gum will always triumph when it comes to pop music.  That rush that comes from dealing in extremes is what beats at the centre of a heavy metal heart and sometimes the people who live with this creative principle won’t even use a riff or anything rock n roll to prove it.

This is why “Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness” triumphed because Smashing Pumpkins favoured mood over the riff and that is always a refreshing thing to behold in the rock n roll world.

Look, I understand that a lot of you probably think that I’m being way too “deep” about something as simple as rock n roll and that I should just relax and have fun and all that type of thing. Yes, I get it and I understand that you would prefer that but the point is the music of Smashing Pumpkins is an intense ride for the free thinkers and chai tea drinkers. My kind of fun is listening to a band like Smashing Pumpkins and being ushered into a realm of deep thought. I get a great rush from that experience.

Some people get stoned or high in order to reach some kind of new realm, I don’t need any of that artificial stimuli I just need good music, great bands and a diverse record collection. The music of Smashing Pumpkins provides the kind of rapture I require.

I believe that great art needs to be a little bit spiritual in order to help us remember just how much beauty there is to this life. Perhaps music is my “Death Coping Mechanism” and my “Religion” and maybe I’m a deluded fuckwit but all that aside I can safely claim that the music on “Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness” helped me become a believer all those years ago and in 2015 I am still a disciple of Billy Corgan’s gospel.

 

VIDEO PREVIEW: OWEN RABBIT RELEASES VHS MUSIC VIDEO FOR NEW SINGLE ‘DENNY’S’

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Following on from the release of his abrasively pop-infused single ‘Denny’s’, Melbournite producer / multi-instrumentalist, Owen Rabbit, has just revealed the accompanying music video that features home movie footage shot on VHS of a 3-year-old Owen growing up in his hometown of Darlington, WA.

Owen explains the motivation behind the clip and its link to the song –

“Everything seems less complicated in hindsight. I had some pretty serious nostalgia looking through all the old 8mm cassette tapes. They were all dated from the early 90s. The footage had a primitive edge to it. I feel like Denny’s has some rough edges as well and they meshed well together. Especially the plane footage; my dad used to have a plane and he used to take me flying all the time. It was heaps of fun using the joystick.”
– Owen Rabbit

The new single has gained fast momentum since its initial release three weeks ago, with support from the likes of triple j, #2 on Hype Machine Now charts, Spotify’s NMF playlist, #4 position via AMRAP metro charts and a slew of worldwide blogs.

‘Denny’s’ carries a deep and personal message that Owen felt passionately about conveying; touching on mental health issues and how seeking professional help and music saved his life.

The second half of 2015 saw a vigorous touring schedule, including a recent national run with producer / vocalist, JOY. performing largely to capacity rooms. Live reviewers described his show as “Nothing short of weird and wonderful“ – Music Feeds and “Really insane vibes“ – Vulture Magazine.

Owen will now hit the studio to keep working towards his debut EP, which is scheduled for release in the first half of 2016.

‘Denny’s’ music video is now available to view via YouTube


Stay tuned for our review of the song xo

HOLY ELEVEN – Dan Newton’s Top Eleven Albums of All Time – Number Seven – “Tidal” by FIONA APPLE

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Number Seven – “Tidal” by FIONA APPLE

1. My First Interaction With The Album – November 2001

2. How Did the Interaction Occur – I was an avid collector of music magazines when I was a teenager. Before the internet was a household thing, one of the only ways for me to find out about other music was by reading these magazines. A lot of the Alternative Nation type magazines always featured Fiona Apple. The high praise she received always intrigued me and leading up to 2001 my only interaction with her music was seeing the “Criminal” Video on RAGE a handful of times. It was indeed interesting music and she was an artist I had on my very long list of “must buys” and that’s exactly what I did in November 2001. It’s safe to say that was a rather life changing moment for me and after being totally overhauled by her music, I just sort of woke up and thought, fuck, I just want to do what she does. I didn’t want to mimic her style or aesthetic, I just wanted to be as incredible and emotional intelligent as her. I’m still trying to reach those heights both creatively and personally.

3. Favourite Song from the album – “The First Taste”

4. Reason why it is so influential – It’s hard to document in words why Fiona Apple, let alone this album, are so important. You either know or you don’t and for those who are awake to her genius there is a real joy when you can share that with fellow fans, that comforting moment when you find someone that you can utter those simple words of “I know” to and celebrate the special magic of her music with because her music is not of this world. People talk about raw emotion and throw that term around so frequently these days that it has lost all meaning. When anyone talks about raw emotion and music I always just assume they are taking their ques from “Tidal” by Fiona Apple because I’m yet to hear an album as raw or as heartfelt. From the production to the performance, everything on this album is perfect and like most artists on this list, Fiona Apple is without peer. Her music exists in that rare cultural space where she has managed to conjure up her own creative dialogue and although people attempt to mimic it they can only ever re-create it scientifically. The deep spiritual and emotional core of Fiona’s music is quite frankly impossible to rip off because she puts songs together in such a delicate way. Each part of every song is purposeful and meaningful to the overall communication, nothing is out of place and there is never any dead air. Everything is considered and laboured over in order to ensure that the true heart and soul of the song is pure. “Tidal” was a religious like awakening for me and it is a record that I’m still studying. She’s one of those artists that I just admire so much and if I could be half as impacting and important as her, I’d be a happy human being.

5. Total Amount Of Years Spent Listening To the album – 14 Years

 

HOLY ELEVEN – Dan Newton’s Top Eleven Albums of All Time – Number Eight – “Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea” by PJ HARVEY

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Number Eight – “Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea” by PJ Harvey

1. My First Interaction With The Album – October 2000

2. How Did the Interaction Occur – My brother once again was the superfan and he raved about this album. I was aware of PJ Harvey and had been interested in various songs she’d released up until this point but I guess my desire to explore her discography was because of what I heard on this album when I heard it on my Brother’s stereo and because of the way Chino Moreno talked about her. Being in the post-White Pony zone I was of course on a mission to fill out my collection with some of the more non-metal influences that Deftones spoke about and PJ Harvey was top of my list.

3. Favourite Song from the album – This will be the only time I choose two songs and they are “Horses In My Dreams” and “We Float”

4. Reason why it is so influential – The music of PJ Harvey had a significant influence on the way I approach songwriting. She is a pure masterclass and throughout the years she has been able to evolve and be without peer. She speaks to me on a deep emotional level with every twist and turn of her music there echoes ancient sighs and old world yearnings. She conjures up the kind of spooky shiver that on impact is quite haunting but as you fall deeper and deeper into her world you start to see just how complex her raw emotion is. People who have attempted to rip her off only ever strive to replicate that component of her, unfortunately no one ever really comes close to reaching the heights or emotional intelligence required to communicate as effectively as PJ Harvey. Her music exists to soothe and conquer with every listening experience leaving you feel totally changed and transformed. It is music that doesn’t answer questions or solve emotional problems, it simply tears them apart and scatters them leaving you the listener in a state of satisfied confusion needing another little hit of her bliss. This album has been in my collection for a long time but I still feel that every time I listen to it I’m learning, discovering and finding out more things about both myself and PJ Harvey the artist. She is truly a powerful human being with a creative output that is flawless and full of “favourite albums of all time” mentions. This album however always holds a special place because it was educational for me and another example of music that taught me the importance of being artist first and a musician second.

5. Total Amount Of Years Spent Listening To the album – 15 Years

 

HOLY ELEVEN – Dan Newton’s Top Eleven Albums of All Time – Number Nine – “Sonic Nurse” by SONIC YOUTH

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Number Nine – “Sonic Nurse” by SONIC YOUTH

1. My First Interaction With The Album – June 2004

2. How Did the Interaction Occur – My brother was always the Sonic Youth superfan. He had long attempted to try and get me into the band. This album came out just after his 23rd Birthday and I purchased both this and tickets to see Sonic Youth at the Arena. I can safely say that his persistent blasting of this album and that night at the Arena made me a superfan as well. Something clicked, I finally was ready to recieve the true magic the band was offering up.

3. Favourite Song from the album – “I Love You Golden Blue”

4. Reason why it is so influential – As is the case with any band, I think the album that allows them to resonate with you is always going to be your favourite. Up until this point I only really liked a few songs here and there but never really committed to an album. With “Sonic Nurse” something clicked and that album became like some kind of university. For a heavy metal fiend like myself it offered a new kind of extreme. It spoke to that part of me that wanted to use the guitar and rock band format for more than just traditional rocking out. It also introduced me to Kim Gordon and that is an influence that helped usher me into an arena of confidence that is at the centre of everything I do creatively to this day. A lot of people my age wasted time going to university and learning how to become real adults. I skipped all that and spent my 20’s lost in the Sonic Youth universe, which was the perfect education for a person who desired to be an artist as opposed to a musician.

5. Total Amount Of Years Spent Listening To the album – 11 Years

HOLY ELEVEN – Dan Newton’s Top Eleven Albums of All Time – Number Ten – “Loveless” by MY BLOODY VALENTINE

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Number Ten – “Loveless” by MY BLOODY VALENTINE

1. My First Interaction With The Album  October 2004

2. How Did the Interaction Occur – I had always heard people like Billy Corgan, Chino Moreno and Peter Steele talk about how life changing and important “Loveless” by My Bloody Valentine was. The first sample of this album that I ever heard came courtesy of my brother Ben who showed me the song “Soon” from the “Glider” EP when I was 17 going on 18 back in the year 2001. The album “Loveless” was always top of my list for albums to purchase but I was never able to find a CD copy whenever I visited record stores and it seemed to be discontinued for a period of time. This finally came to an end in October 2004 when my local JB’s finally stocked a copy of “Loveless” – naturally I brought it and fell in love with the beautiful sounds contained within it.

3. Favourite Song from the album – “Sometimes”

4. Reason why it is so influential – It is incredibly hard for me to put into words just how much the music of My Bloody Valentine means to me. The music they have released was so influential to helping further my understanding of how guitar based music can be so much more. When I first heard “Loveless” I was convinced that I had tasted rock n roll perfection and that finally I had discovered “that sound” I had always desired. Over the years I played “Loveless” so much that I have brought a total of five copies of the album in those eleven years. I’ve also spent a great deal of time lost inside the sounds of their debut album “Isn’t Anything” and the other assorted EP’s that they released as a band. Everything they released up until this point is music of the highest order but when it all comes down to it, the real shining light of the bands discography for my ears will always be “Loveless.” My Bloody Valentine is one of the few select bands who play what I define as the perfect rock n roll sound.

5. Total Amount Of Years Spent Listening To the album – 11 Years

HOLY ELEVEN – Dan Newton’s Top Eleven Albums of All Time – Number Eleven – “Spiderland” by SLINT

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Number Eleven – “Spiderland” by SLINT

1. My First Interaction With The Album April / May 2005

2. How Did the Interaction Occur – I became aware of David Pajo courtesy of Billy Corgan’s post Smashing Pumpkins band Zwan. Naturally I was curious as to who he was and I started to investigate his music career. That awarness occured in 2003 but I didn’t actually purchase “Spiderland” until 2005.

3. Favourite Song from the album – “Washer”

4. Reason why it is so influential – This album introduced me to the concept of post-rock and also a lot of musical aesthetics required to make meaningful art soaked rock music. Despite the many different genres this album inspired within the indie rock universe I still view it as the perfect rock record. It is heavy, emotional and spacious with the right kind of poetic weirdness making it a real “one in a million” kind of album that is continually ripped off but rarely ever bettered or understood by those who attemped to evolve its beauty.

5. Total Amount Of Years Spent Listening To the album – 10 years and 6 months

HERE IS NO WHY – an in-depth look at “Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness” by Smashing Pumpkins – Part One – “Suffer My Desire”

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“In The Arms Of Sleep”

Sleep will not come to this tired body now
Peace will not come to this lonely heart
There are some things I’ll live without
But I want you to know that I need you right now
I need you tonite
I steal a kiss from her sleeping shadow moves
Cause I’ll always miss her wherever she goes
And I’ll always need her more than she could ever need me
I need someone to ease my mind
But sometimes a someone is so hard to find
And I’ll do anything to keep her here tonite
And I’ll say anything to make her feel alright
And I’ll be anything to keep her here tonite
Cause I want you to stay, with me
I need you tonite
She comes to me like an angel out of time
As I play the part of a saint on my knees
There are some things I’ll live without
But I want you to know that I need you right now
Suffer my desire
Suffer my desire
Suffer my desire for you

When it comes to my romantic life I’ve long been the victim or instigator of the unrequited. It is the kind of love that is one-sided and not openly reciprocated and quite often shrouded in secrecy. To this day many of the beloved are not even aware of my deep and strong romantic affection and on the rare occasion when I’ve arisen from my cowardice to admit and express my feelings they have been consciously rejected. The pattern is always the same; a situation is created where I find it difficult to express my true feelings because I have a deep fear of rejection. It is in no way unique and everyone has fell victim to this type of love affair at least once in their life.

Unrequited love has been a frequent subject in popular culture and has a tendency to be viewed as a noble, an unselfish and stoic willingness to accept suffering. There is a degree of euphoria in the feelings associated with unrequited love, which has the advantage as well of carrying none of the responsibilities of mutual relationships. This kind of bliss opens up the artist to “the ache” which is the rush of soaking your existence in the sigh of divine yearning. This wistful or melancholy longing is both addictive and maddening causing any creative person the required muse for their art to be communicated.

For a long time, I felt embarrassed to be so addicted to this rush but as is the case with all artistic pursuits my thirst for understanding pushed me to align with similar minds that also experienced these feelings. In my 20’s I discovered the work of Nick Cave and in particular a lecture he gave about “The Secret Life of The Love Song” and “The Word Made Flesh” where he talks in depth about his creative philosophy. For those who are committed to depth, I suggest you read them on the following link:

https://heavyandwierd.wordpress.com/2013/02/05/nick-cave-and-the-bad-seeds-in-search-of-the-ache-volume-one/

For those who need the instant fix, let me share with you one of the more pivotal moments from the lecture to help highlight a few points about the divine yearn:

“Though the love song comes in many guises – songs of exultation and praise, songs of rage and of despair, erotic songs, songs of abandonment and loss – they all address God, for it is the haunted premises of longing that the true love song inhabits. It is a howl in the void, for Love and for comfort and it lives on the lips of the child crying for his mother. It is the song of the lover in need of her loved one, the raving of the lunatic supplicant petitioning his God. It is the cry of one chained to the earth, to the ordinary and to the mundane, craving flight; a flight into inspiration and imagination and divinity. The love song is the sound of our endeavours to become God-like, to rise up and above the earthbound and the mediocre”

“We each have a need to create and sorrow is a creative act. The love song is a sad song; it is the sound of sorrow itself. We all experience within us what the Portuguese call Suadade, which translates as an inexplicable sense of longing, an unnamed and enigmatic yearning of the soul and it is this feeling that lives in the realms of imagination and inspiration and is the breeding ground for the sad song, for the Love song is the light of God, deep down, blasting through our wounds.”

“The love song must be born into the realm of the irrational, absurd, the distracted, the melancholic, the obsessive, the insane for the love song is the noise of love itself and love is, of course, a form of madness. Whether it be the love of God, or romantic, erotic love – these are manifestations of our need to be torn away from the rational, to take leave of our senses, so to speak. Love songs come in many guises and are seemingly written for many reasons – as declarations or to wound – I have written songs for all of these reasons – but ultimately the love songs exist to fill, with language, the silence between ourselves and God, to decrease the distance between the temporal and the divine.”

“The reasons why I feel compelled to sit down and write love songs are legion. Some of these came clearer to me when I sat down with a friend of mine, who for the sake of his anonymity I will refer to as J.J. and I admitted to each other that we both suffered from psychological disorder that the medical profession call erotographomania. Erotographomania is the obsessive desire to write love letters. My friend shared that he had written and sent, over the last five years, more than seven thousand love letters to his wife. My friend looked exhausted and his shame was almost palpable. I suffer from the same disease but happily have yet to reach such an advanced stage as my poor friend J. We discussed the power of the love letter and found that it was, not surprisingly, very similar to the love song. Both served as extended meditations on ones beloved. Both served to shorten the distance between the writer and the recipient. Both held within them a permanence and power that the spoken word did not. Both were erotic exercises, in themselves. Both had the potential to reinvent, through words, like Pygmalion with his self-created lover of stone, one’s beloved. Alas, the most endearing form of correspondence, the love letter, like the love song has suffered at the hands of the cold speed of technology, at the carelessness and soullessness of our age.”

It is wonderful to hear the way Nick Cave connects the idea of God to the process of creating music. Music for me, both listening and creating, is a process in celebrating the divine shiver we all chase. The spook of existence and those dark chills that haunt us at every twist and turn. It is a faceless God and it adheres to the principles of surrender and giving whilst living distinctly in the imagination. The love song is as Nick Cave says a process in “(with language) filling the silence between ourselves and God, to decrease the distance between the temporal and the divine.”  These words are a truth I believe and before the scientists and the mediocre guitar rock bands among us resort to their atheist fanboy rebuttals I think it’s important to see the difference between the religious God and the God being discussed under these circumstances.

God is not a word or concept to fear, it is the manipulation of the word to suit religious dogma that breeds that argument you all love to chase and disprove but remember regardless of what face your God has (from Catholicism to atheism) it is all a process rooted in “faith” and this philosophy is no different. Nick Cave’s explanation of the divine is my truth and a truth I believe. I feel it gives context to the intense nature in which I like to function on creatively. Does this mean I am religious or in the business of making religious music? Fuck No, and neither is Nick Cave, like I said when you read what he is talking about in these lectures you have to dull down your fear of the word God and what it means in a literal context.

Moving closer to the point of it all, the first song that really stole my heart when it came to Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds was “Love Letter” which is from the amazing album “No More Shall We Part.” This was the first album I brought by Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds back in 2001 when I was only 18 years old. The whole album resonated with me but the song that I instantly had a connection too was “Love Letter.”

Why do I relate to this song so much?

It comes back once again to a revelation that was spoken by Nick in one of the above mentioned lectures where he referred to the psychological disorder that the medical profession calls erotographomania, which is the obsessive need to send love letters. Whilst I’ve never been diagnosed I can safely say that my relationship with the “love letter” (both sent and unsent) has been a long one.

My “love letters” have become notorious pieces of communication and all of the wonderful women I’ve sent them too over the years have been both moved and disturbed. The reason I say disturbed is because once you pour your feelings into a letter (and I’m talking pages, not just a few paragraphs) and spell out how much you love them it can become overwhelming.

I followed this ritual with every new crush that stole my heart. It helped birth many a muse and increased that yearning deep inside of me. After 2009 I didn’t send or write any more love letters, the damage sustained after my girlfriend Tiffany broke up with me in August of 2009 destroyed my desire for love or the thrill of writing these letters or even obtaining a crush and since 2009 I have not written once single love letter.

From 1991 to 2009 over a period of 18 years I was consistent and a lot of those letters were never sent. A few of them were but a large portion of them remain scrawled in notepads and hidden away in my various journals. The face and the feeling of these women still haunt my mind when I chase the ache. The ones that hurt the most seem to stick out the most and it is the love letters that I never sent them that I read the most when I am looking to erupt the shiver in my soul in order to ignite the muse and the imagination. So in 2001 when I heard the “Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds” song “Love Letter” I was hooked.

I never set out to mimic or be like Nick Cave, it is quite the opposite really. I try my best to learn from Nick Cave but I never wanted to be him. He simply helped me understand those complicated desires swirling within me and gave me the degree of clarity that I was searching for.

If Nick Cave provided clarity to my unrequited love madness then Billy Corgan is quite possibly the main instigator in unlocking and giving direction to my pursuit towards blissed out misery. For the past 20 years I’ve worshiped at the altar of all things Smashing Pumpkins and although my initial attraction to the band was based on their rage and intense heaviness it soon became clear that it was going to be Corgan’s ability to build the perfect sonic landscape for heartbreak and rejection that would be the reason I became so intoxicated by the universe he created with his songs.

An album as diverse as “Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness” doesn’t deserve just one tribute blog, it deserves a whole series and that is what I plan to do in order to give full credit to the impact this album had on my life and how now, 20 years later it still stands as one of the few 1990’s albums that haunts with a mysterious sting. I want to explore the emotional and the science behind what made this record such a big hit for humans all over the world and to help paint a picture of how it managed to change certain aesthetics within the rock n roll landscape.

I hope you have enjoyed part one – I look forward to sharing more with you over the coming week.

Big Love

Dan xo

HOLY ELEVEN – Dan Newton’s Top Eleven Bands / Artists of all Time – Number One – PEARL JAM

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Number One – PEARL JAM

1. My First Interaction With The Band / Artist – December 1994

2. How Did the Interaction Occur – Courtesy of an NBA Basketball Video where their song “GO” soundtracked a montage of Seattle Supersonics player Shawn Kemp. Pearl Jam was the first real band that I got into and and is the reason why I started investing in the idea of becoming an artist and a musician. I’ve been listening to them since December 1994 and in the last 20 or so years of my life my love for them has only increased. No matter what new music I’ve discovered, Pearl Jam has remained as a constant in my life. I’ve been a fan of this band when they were the most popular band in the world right through the middle years where people stopped caring right through to the most recent years and I was proud to help celebrate their 20th year in September 2011. The main reason why I’m still a massive fan of Pearl Jam is because the music they’ve made over the years is still so vital and forward thinking. Regardless of whether they have remained relevant in the eyes of the public or the hipsters are of no concern to me, they’ve made some of the best rock n roll records of the past two decades.

3. First Album Purchased by the Band / Artist and When – “VS” in January 1995 on Cassette Tape

4. Favourite Album by the Band / Artist – “No Code” which I brought on Cassette Tape in 1996

5. Favourite Song by the Band / Artist – “I Got ID” from the Merkinball single release with Neil Young

6. How Many Times Have I Seen Them Live – Twice in 2006

7. Total Amount Of Years Spent Listening To and Following The Band – 20 Years 7 Months and 1 Day

Here is a small playlist I’ve made for you all featuring a track from each studio release – I hope you enjoy it xo

HOLY ELEVEN – Dan Newton’s Top Eleven Bands / Artists of all Time – Number Two – METALLICA

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Number Two – METALLICA

1. My First Interaction With The Band / Artist – December 1995

2. How Did the Interaction Occur – Courtesy of my Big Brother Ben who I’d just purchased the self-titled or “the black” album for on cassette tape for Christmas – I had been aware of and heard and seen the name for years but this was my first experience truly hearing a full song and or album. My brother was the first person ever to show me “Enter Sandman” and it was one of those truly life changing moments as I was only 12 years old and had never heard anything that heavy before.

3. First Album Purchased by the Band / Artist and When – “Self-Titled” (the black album) in June 1996 on cassette tape – after my brothers copy got chewed up in the tape machine a month or so earlier I just had to take the chance and re-buy a copy for myself. This was at a point where my brother was delving deeper into more “artier” realms musically and wasn’t as interested in heavy music or Metallica. I herald the purchasing of this album in June 1996 as the moment I had my life overtaken by Heavy Metal and the healing power of the riff.

4. Favourite Album by the Band / Artist – “Master Of Puppets” which I first received as a going away present from my friends (when my family relocated from Mackay to Bundaberg) on Cassette Tape in December 1996

5. Favourite Song by the Band / Artist – “Bleeding Me” from their 1996 release LOAD

6. How Many Times Have I Seen Them Live – Once in 2010

7. Total Amount Of Years Spent Listening To and Following The Band – 19 Years and 8 Months

Here is a small playlist I’ve made for you all featuring a track from each studio release – I hope you enjoy it xo

HOLY ELEVEN – Dan Newton’s Top Eleven Bands / Artists of all Time – Number Three – SMASHING PUMPKINS

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Number Three – SMASHING PUMPKINS

1. My First Interaction With The Band / Artist – December 1995

2. How Did the Interaction Occur – My big brother Ben once again introduced me to the band after he heard “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” on the radio. We never seemed to be in the same place at the same time when this happened so he recorded the song to a cassette tape when he managed to catch it on the radio one day. He played it to me and once again I had one of those life changing moments, I had never heard anything like it and as a 12 year old it sounded like the weirdest most far out thing ever not to mention emotionally explosive. Hearing “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” opened up certain parts of my brain and soul which caused a whole new personal revolution to occur. This was not just music for entertainment purposes, this was music that was going to help me survive and after spending so much of my life scared, alone, bullied and alienated by my peers it finally felt good to hear the voice and music of someone who knew what that felt like. I’m forever in debt to that moment and to this day I’m still chasing the rush of hearing a song like “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” for the first time.

3. First Album Purchased by the Band / Artist and When – “Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness” on duel cassette tape in May / June 1996 – my brother had just scored his first weekend job so he had upgraded from tapes to CD’s after buying his first CD player. You would think that magically I’d just inherit his old cassette tapes as he replaced them on CD but unfortunately not – somehow he convinced me to pay him $20.00 to buy this from him. I wanted and needed that album so badly that I just handed over the cash. From memory I was given $20.00 as spending money at the local school Mayfair celebrations but instead of spending it on food or the rides on offer I just held onto the money and starved the whole night just so I could buy the album from my brother. I did that a lot back in those days, just starved and saved tuckshop money so I could go out and buy cassette tapes and eventually CD’s.

4. Favourite Album by the Band / Artist – “Adore” which I first received on CD in December 1999 as a Christmas present from my little Brother John

5. Favourite Song by the Band / Artist – “Porcelina Of The Vast Oceans” from their 1995 release MELLON COLLIE AND THE INFINITE SADNESS

6. How Many Times Have I Seen Them Live – Once in 2008

7. Total Amount Of Years Spent Listening To and Following The Band – 19 Years and 8 Months

Here is a small playlist I’ve made for you all featuring a track from each studio release – I hope you enjoy it xo (please note 2007’s “Zeitgeist” was not available on Spotify which is why there is no song from that album on the list)

HOLY ELEVEN – Dan Newton’s Top Eleven Bands / Artists of all Time – Number Four – RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS

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Number Four – RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS

1. My First Interaction With The Band / Artist – October 1996

2. How Did the Interaction Occur – From 1991 to 1996 it was impossible not to hear or be exposed to music by Red Hot Chili Peppers. They were everywhere and as a younger child I had already heard and experienced the singles from “Blood Sugar Sex Magick” courtesy of mainstream radio, RAGE and Video Hits. In terms of my own personal connection with the band, well this didn’t happen until I brought “One Hot Minute” in October 1996 when I was 12 going on 13 on cassette tape. Once again I was aware of the hugely popular single “Aeroplane” but I was not prepared for what that album was about to serve up. It was emotional, intense and covered in black comedy type lyrics that smashed together the serious and the surreal. It was heavy but for different reasons and it opened up my world to parts of the musical spectrum that at this point remained a mystery to me. I guess it was not all about angst and as an album it leaned on a different kind of pain. Red Hot Chili Peppers have taught me a lot both as a human being and as a musician. As a musician they have taught me that to play in a great band you have to be in love with the people you play with and through this love you have to be able to read each other using the power of sexual energy. Through this sexual energy you are able to create and improvise without words and you can invest in the moment and make sound that is coming from the joint emotional experiences in that jam room. Sexual Energy is important when it comes to making music, because a good band will be able to read each other when they are playing without using verbal communications. It will be a total process of feel and moving as one collective consciousness and to have each beating heart at the centre of it. It’s the same energy that exists at the centre of a great sexual experience and that great release you get from playing is the point of orgasm.

3. First Album Purchased by the Band / Artist and When – “One Hot Minute” in October 1996 on cassette tape

4. Favourite Album by the Band / Artist – “Stadium Arcadium” which was released in May 2006 – everything that is beautiful and amazing about this band is contained within this double album masterpiece

5. Favourite Song by the Band / Artist – “Walkabout” from their 1995 release ONE HOT MINUTE

6. How Many Times Have I Seen Them Live – Once in 2007

7. Total Amount Of Years Spent Listening To and Following The Band – 18 Years and 10 Months

Here is a small playlist I’ve made for you all featuring a track from each studio release – I hope you enjoy it xo

 

HOLY ELEVEN – Dan Newton’s Top Eleven Bands / Artists of all Time – Number Five – SOUNDGARDEN

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Number Five – SOUNDGARDEN

1. My First Interaction With The Band / Artist – March 1996

2. How Did the Interaction Occur – Once again my big brother Ben introduced me to the band. I was aware of who they were due to my love of Pearl Jam and all things alternative nation and I had seen their album covers in the record store and also heard “Black Hole Sun” once or twice but it was the song “Pretty Noose” that changed my life. My brother as I mentioned introduced me to the song after he heard it played on Triple J. He loved that song so much and of course as he had the weekend job and the money so he brought “Down on The Upside” when it was released. I always secretly hated that he was able to do that and I used to sneak the album out of his room whenever he wasn’t home. I wasn’t alive when The Beatles were at the height of their creativity or when Led Zeppelin changed the rock n roll landscape. I wasn’t fortunate enough to be born when Black Sabbath introduced the world to heavy metal or when Punk Rock came screaming out of the underground. I am proud to say that I was alive when a group of bands from Seattle spearheaded a movement of music known as a Grunge. I’m grateful that I have the memory of knowing what that era felt like and that I got to experience those bands at the height of their popularity. Soundgarden managed to make better music than The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. Historically we may not be ready to admit that just yet but over time I think people will begin to see the value and influence of this band. There have been so many great rock n roll bands since the grunge era that have evolved that language but there is something to be said about that moment and era in time in terms of how all of those Seattle bands influenced culture and how no one since then has learned to better it, they just harvest the gold.

3. First Album Purchased by the Band / Artist and When – I didn’t actually purchase it but the first album I owned by them was “Down On The Upside” which occurred in December 1996. I had just received my first CD player for Christmas and somehow I managed to get Ben’s copy of “Down On The Upside” through either a swap or possibly by me paying him with money I had received. I can’t really remember the logistics but either way, wow, what a fucking album. A truly life changing record that took years to really sink in.

4. Favourite Album by the Band / Artist – “Superunknown” which was originally released in March 1994

5. Favourite Song by the Band / Artist – “Overfloater” which is from their 1996 album DOWN ON THE UPSIDE

6. How Many Times Have I Seen Them Live – I have never seen them live which makes me incredibly sad

7. Total Amount Of Years Spent Listening To and Following The Band – 19 Years and 5 Months

Here is a small playlist I’ve made for you all featuring a track from each studio release – I hope you enjoy it xo