Archive for August, 2010|Monthly archive page

NAMA: Maddy Hay

For my second installment of ‘New Australian Music Alert’, please allow me to introduce you to Maddy Hay. Hailing from Melbourne, this jazz singing lady has a pretty spectacular voice which is used to sooth the listener.

She wrote the above song, Smoke In The City, aged sixteen and at boarding school – which reminds me a lot of how Missy Higgins started out. In fact, there’s another parallel between the two in the fact that their early works both did well in competitions. Whilst Missy’s All For Believing won her Triple J Unearthed, Maddy’s song reached the final three of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest which she has described as being an “absolute thrill”. Bless her.

I could continue this essay about the similarities between the two (they both went travelling before launching music careers in Aus), I must point out that they are musically different. The jazz roots of Maddy give her an edgier sound that I can only imagine would be a treat to hear live.

So there you go, that was a short introduction to Maddy Hay. Find out more at www.maddyhay.com

Amanda Abizaid – This Life

With a back catalogue including songs that have been used all over US TV including E4 favourites One Tree Hill and Smallville along with a previous release being the theme tune to the Sci Fi series The 4400, Amanda Abizaid remains an unknown name here in the UK. I think she deserves to have a bigger fan base over here, especially with the upcoming release of This Life.

Abizaid has a soft voice; the vocals that almost sound as though they come with built in echoes. Of course, effects have been used to enhance this voice but the natural talent is evident from the very first track on this eight song album. Blue Star Red Sky has been mixed to create a sense of a lot going on behind the vocals. Whilst this isn’t something I’m desperately fond of – I’m all for the voice, deservedly, being the centrepiece – it works in this track.

Undivided is more favourable for me because of the husky vocals and the use of the flute. Yes, that’s right – the instrument I once gained passes up to Grade 2 in is being used in this record. Anyway, that’s enough of my musical history, the lyrics tell their own intriguing story here which always scores brownie points in my book..

Both Believe It and This Life show the stronger side to Abizaid’s vocals. Without too many competing sounds, her voice sounds much more powerful and is generally more pleasant.  And the latter has a lovely chorus that you can’t help but sing-along to – much to the despair of those around me as I belt it out at a far less impressive standard.

It’s the last track, My Friend, which I particularly enjoyed for its slow tempo and solemn tones. The verses gradually build up to the chorus, singing of poison being turned into medicine – oh, how I love a good metaphor!

Overall, it’s a short, but sweet, album from the Lebanon born singer songwriter. I’d have liked a few more tracks with some simple vocals that weren’t being hidden by effects, but I can’t really complain.

This Life is released on 15th September
www.amandaabizaid.com

The Boy Who Trapped The Sun – Fireplace

If you weren’t already aware of my love for The Boy Who Trapped The Sun then you clearly haven’t been following me on twitter or read this review of a live performance of his. In fact, I’ve seen him twice now. And loved him both times.

Scottish born Colin MacLeod has just released his debut album Fireplace and as much as I’d like to keep this amazing album to myself so he keeps playing small shows, he’s too good for me not to share.

I know I should do the orderly thing and begin with the first track and work my way through nicely, but I can’t. Because this album is home to one of my favourite songs ever – may I (re)introduce you to Dreaming Like A Fool. A song about sleeping next to someone who is planning on killing you, the metaphors are pretty full on – “You could never be an actress/I know the knife’s under the mattress”. The song is catchy. But not repetitive. It’s deep. Without being depressing. In other words, it’s perfectly balanced and I urge you all to give it a listen (or even a legal download!)

Now, back to the beginning. Golden opens the album with the sound of a seashore immediately relaxing you and preparing you for MacLeod’s vocals. His soft voice works so well with the guitar that you just want to hug him. Soothing vocals are also found in Katy – the first single from the album. Whilst it’s more upbeat with it’s quicker tempo, it still has the heartfelt lyrics that define the album.

Title track Fireplace, the slightly haunting I See You and an old favourite of mine Home all show MacLeod’s Scottish accent being given a starring role. The latter also houses a great bass line that I adore. He doesn’t disappoint in Thorn In Your Side or Walking In The Dark either. He doesn’t disappoint anywhere on this album. It’s a rarity that I love every track on an album, but I genuinely do. If anything I’d say his hidden track Poem is his weakest but that’s solely due to it being a poem – an art form I often struggle to appreciate. But if you like poetry then I’m sure you’ll love it.

Telescope has a strong opening guitar line that leads into those familiar soft vocals. And Copper Down is stunning. Oh, and I can’t fault Antique Cobweb either.

To put it simply: I love this album. I love Dreaming Like A Fool to the extreme. But this album is definitely worth a buy. And if you get the chance to see The Boy Who Trapped The Sun live (he’s playing at V this month) then you must go and see him.

Missy Higgins’ new song – If I’m Honest


If I’m honest… I love it already.

Modeon – Fall Out EP

Before I say anything about Modeon’s new EP, I feel I should make it clear that I know very little about Electronic music. Throw me an acoustic guitar and a singer songwriter and I have enough knowledge to write something intelligent (occasionally!). But electronic stuff is not really in my reviewing repertoire. Being the aspiring journalist and loyal twitterer that I am, I am reviewing Fall Out EP as well as I can – despite my aforementioned flaws – because Modeon is a lovely twitterer. Here goes nothing…

Six songs have been put together to create this EP making it half the length of your average album which is pretty generous for an EP. It opens with Hole and the electro vibe immediately kicks in. Vocals have been layered on top of various beats creating a catchy chorus. To my surprise, the song is lyrically quite impressive. I often overlook music like this on the basis that I (perhaps wrongly) assume that they are lyrically weak and layer tracks with electronic sounds to hide them. But in this case you can make out the lyrics and it makes for pleasant listening.

Equally, if not more, catchy is Apocalyptik. Going straight in with the ‘chorus’ – if that’s what you’d call it – it then quietens placing the emphasis on the title’s line. Whatever ‘this love’ is, the song makes it very clear that it’s rather ‘apocalyptik’. Which one can only assume is a good thing… I can see this being good club music with its strong beats and repetitive lyrics making it easy to lose yourself in.

 I like the piano in Lost at Sea i) and would love to hear more of it. The song doesn’t seem to go anywhere. I get that this is probably what it was written to do, but for me it just doesn’t click.

The more lyrical The Incredible Sulk is probably my personal favourite on the EP. The lead vocals are given a chance to stand alone (well, almost alone) and this works well. Of course, the electronic tones are not left behind entirely with various interludes making the song what it is: an all round good song.

Trigger Mode has a strong drum beat to start before moving into the vocals which I quite like. It gets softer as it progresses and I enjoy this.

The long (7:20 minutes!) Lost at Sea ii) goes more places than i). It’s still not my favourite, but it’s got a great chilled feel to it and the lyrics pose some interesting questions. This song shows a different side to Modeon’s talents. It’s much more easy listening and could please even those with no knowledge of electronic music. Much likes it’s title, it does give out a sense that you could easily be at sea just by listening – it’s relaxing, just as every trip to the sea should be.

So my first adventure into the world of electronic music is complete. I’ve come out the other end of it enlightened and keen to dive back in. This EP has a lot to offer with its eclectic mix.

The release is available as a pay-what-you-want download (a good initiative if ever I saw one) on www.modeon.co.uk

Gilli Moon – The Stillness

When I read Gilli Moon’s press release, I was immediately struck by the phrase ‘Australian Singer Songwriter’. Those three words epitomise my music taste, so why was I unaware of this artist who has just released her sixth album? She’s not the most mainstream artist, but nor are most of the artists who fill my iPod. To be honest, I don’t know why I wasn’t aware of her. But I am now, and that’s the important thing.

The Stillness plays home to fourteen tracks which each shine in their own way. Opening with Conversation With Me, Moon’s soft vocals demonstrate her natural ability that compliment the piano playing which accompanies her voice.

I Am is a stand out track for me. Whilst Moon has been compared to the likes of Alanis Morrisette (something I don’t disagree with) it’s Genevieve Little – another Aussie who I once randomly stumbled across who I am reminded of in this upbeat number. The chorus is full of optimism and charisma, emphasising the happiness behind the song.

The ‘haunting’ track of the album is Days In November. Background vocals and a repetitive chorus may often be seen as flaws in a song, yet here they serve to reinforce the strength of Moon’s vocals. It’s floaty without hitting the extreme airiness that Imogen Heap overwhelms me with.

Before I listened to Cos I Love You So, I assumed it would be cutesy pop. I was proven wrong with this track and its powerful chorus that some may say – OK, so my mum was listening to it and made a comment – sounds like Madonna. And that’s not a criticism by any means. Although, my minor critique would be the juxtaposition between Moon’s vocals and the, perhaps misplaced, rapping interlude by a male vocalist that just doesn’t seem to flow for me.

The Stillness is out now.
www.gillimoon.com