Archive for the ‘Australian’ Tag
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
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.
It has taken me a while to get into Sia. As an Australian female singer/songwriter with a bit more media coverage than most of my favourites, you’d have thought I’d have taken a listen a lot sooner. But I didn’t. It was only when I was prompted on Twitter to download Some People Have Real Problems that I gave her a chance to shine.
With album artwork echoing everything that is beautifully awkward about the Paint application, I was expecting something a bit quirky. And yes, having seen some of her videos on YouTube, they are a little bit different to the usual drones of miming and choreography that populates our charts. (See this video for her new single Clap Your Hands to find this out for yourself!)
Little Black Sandals has a catchy hook in the chorus. It’s floaty, without being too floaty. It’s more Joss Stone than Imogen Heap in floatiness, which I regard as a positive. Her voice is soulful and full of emotion which adds to the strength of the songs.
I don’t like lentils, but that hasn’t stopped my appreciation of Lentil. In particular the rhythm that accompanies the lyrics which helps to keep the song flowing for the entirety of it’s duration.
Day Too Soon is possibly my favourite song on the album. Her voice reminds me of Gabrielle with it’s huskiness at times. The narrative tells the classic “I’ve been waiting all my life” story before meeting that special one “not a day too soon”. It might be clichéd but it’s well structured to emote these feelings beautifully.
Upon reading the lyrics to You Have Been Loved they carry a lot of meaning. Perhaps they’re too dragged out in the song itself, but the craftsmanship lyrically is impressive. Simple metaphors are used to construct the story of an ending relationship.
Naming a song The Girl You Lost to Cocaine immediately has an impact upon the listener. It’s a bit ‘jazz meets pop meets non-shouty-but-powerful-singing’. Combining these aspects works well and produces a song that I can imagine could’ve been radio friendly were it not for the ten seconds or so instrumental in the middle in which you’re left to reflect on the song’s title.
The beginning of Academia screams Regina Spektor to me. But then things suddenly change and the quickly spoken words become haunting slow lyrics for the chorus. The contrast achieves something intriguing and ultimately rather pleasant. Oh, and she sings “If I am a number I am infinity plus one” – despite the lack of rationality in this statement I admire the use of ‘infinity’ in any context that doesn’t relate to Buzz Lightyear.
The lullaby-esque I Go to Sleep is a bit too tiring for my liking and Playground takes a while to get into, but Death by Chocolate is far superior. The verses introduce different ideas of ‘Death by…’ situations that are all rather poignant in making a point.
“Death by anger this is true
Just let him go he can’t hurt you
Oh little girl this is such a cruel, cruel world
this is the first, of a million broken hearts”
There’s something about Soon We’ll Be Found that reminds me of Paloma Faith. Electric Bird has background sounds of, unsurprisingly, birds. And Beautiful Calm Driving is, well it’s beautiful and calm.
It’s in Lullaby where the slower pace really shows off the softer vocals that Sia has to offer. Occasionally there’s the odd word that I found inaudible, but that’s what the huskiness of the vocals does. And I quite like it.
Ending with the upbeat Buttons, the album is full of variety. Sia has a great vocal range that suits several different types of songs. I’m glad I was advised to look into Sia; I shall now continue to spread the Sia love by suggesting that you do the same. Check her out. And then send any other recommendations in my direction!
Like the majority of Missy’s singles; the CD title is not just ‘Steer’. No, it has those added two letters ‘EP’ that don’t seem to appear on other releases over here. I’ve discussed the title track in my On A Clear Night album review which only leaves three other songs for me to comment on.
Before I even get started on reviewing the music I must mention the artwork on this physical release. The case is one of those cardboard ones that immediately makes it feel more special than being surrounded by plastic. The font is the same as is used on all promotional work from On A Clear Night; all capital letters with ‘HIGGINS’ being indented on the second line. In the right of the front photo is Missy in profile smiling as though she’s been mesmerised by something. Something that’s a night so totally clear perhaps? Perhaps it’s something that means you can control where you go and you can steer? Just a thought. Anyway, once opened there’s a lovely photo of a cloudy blue sky with a few birds flying around freely. And I guess being free is part of what Steer is all about.
Dusty Road seems to be about empowering women, I guess. “Sometimes men abuse your power” is a line that is followed by the chorus about how to get off the ‘Dusty Road’ of abuse. Maybe. I’m not entirely sure about this song to be honest. Don’t get me wrong, I love singing along to it (it’s one of Missy’s guitary upbeat tracks) but I don’t think I really “get” it.
A song that I do connect with is The Battle. Written about a supposed battle with another songwriter, the lyrics show Missy’s genius. Beginning with “I don’t need a slap in the face / I’m already at the bottom of the sea”, the use of metaphor is typically impressive. A slow song played on acoustic guitar, it allows for Missy to sing a few “oooohh’s” displaying her vocal talents.
The final track is asterisked as a Demo. It was produced by Missy herself and is titled Leave A Note. I love the rawness of this song. It’s full of emotion. It appears to be some sort of plea for someone to stop leaving without telling anyone. At face level that’s what I took from it anyway. Although as with most pieces of songwriting by Missy, there’s likely to be a few other more complex interpretations that could be found.
One of my favourite EPs. And definitely one of my favourite physical CDs for it’s beautiful sleeve.
I don’t know what I’ve done. Or if I like what I’ve begun.
Those are the first lines that greet your ears on Missy Higgins’ second album On a Clear Night. And already, I like what’s begun. I love these lyrics. I love these songs. I love this album.
Where I Stood is written in Missy’s classic style drawing at all your heartstrings. There’s been discussion as to whether the story that’s being told is that of a relationship that’s broken up, or if it’s a bit more complex and is actually about giving a child up for adoption. Lyrics such as “She will love you more than I could/She who dares to stand where I stood” leave it entirely up to your own interpretation. It’s the ambiguity in Missy’s craftsmanship that I love. Her songs rarely tell a straight forward story. There are always lines that mean different things to different listeners – making each song even more personal.
Missy gets her guitar out in 100 Round the Bends. It’s upbeat for Missy. I’m struggling to find a remotely depressing lyric in it. Admittedly, it’s pretty clear that Missy was, perhaps, in a better place when she wrote this album. Songs like this would never have fitted in on her debut album. It’s just too… happy. Yes, the lyrics progress to sing about how this great relationship failed and hence the happiness ends. But the chorus returns once more; the guitar kicks in and all negativity is forgotten.
I have to admit that when I first heard Steer I wasn’t entirely convinced. It was the first single off the album and I had a few versions of it on my iTunes, so it kept replaying itself. I was so excited to hear new songs from Missy that I listened to it a lot in a short space of time and the novelty soon wore thin. It didn’t astound me lyrically and so, for about a year after its release, I often found myself skipping past it on my iPod. Nowadays, I’ve rediscovered it for the great song it really is and could happily listen to it on repeat.
Sugarcane. The most beautiful song I’ve ever heard. Wow. I love every second of it. It’s the most played song on my iTunes and I can’t ever see myself getting bored of it. The lyrics are beautifully crafted to haunt you. The first verse is about abuse of a young girl. The second about an older girl in a peepshow who dances behind a one-way mirror to try and convince herself that people aren’t watching. If only the young girl had the ability to do the same. But she doesn’t. And so she must “Run. Run fast. Sugarcane”. This is, of course, just my interpretation. And as I’ve said, you can find a thousand different meanings from each song of Missy’s. If I remember correctly, it was inspired by a photo a ballerina with a ghostly figure behind it, hence the song beginning with the metaphor of the ‘Baby Ballerinas hiding somewhere in the corner”. I can’t tell you enough how beautiful this song is. If you take anything from this review, or even this whole blog. It should be to have a listen of this song. Don’t just casually listen to it though. You need to focus on the lyrics and the vocals alike to soak up everything you can from this work of beauty.
I like the verses in Secret. The chorus has never been so appealing, but the vocal ability of Missy allows me to forget about that. It was written about a relationship that the speaker wants to be open about, whilst the other party wants it to remain as… well, as a secret. Clearly this relationship isn’t going to work out so well. Cue long contemplative lyrics from Higgins.
Perhaps the best vocal performance on the album comes on Warm Whispers. This album version doesn’t display the true capacity of Missy’s voice but this YouTube clip does it a lot more justice. The length that she can hold a note for amazes me. As do the metaphors in this song. I mean, she’s weeping “warm honey and milk”. Who else weeps warm honey and milk? Nobody I know of.
Missy can play the piano amazingly. But that doesn’t mean she’s at all bad at guitar playing either. As shown in The Wrong Girl where she casually strums away as she sings. Angela, a song inspired by a black and white photo Missy once saw in a hotel she was staying in, is also played on guitar. Missy is way too musically talented for my liking. She makes my one song that I can play on the piano (The First Noel – perfect for all occasions) look entirely worthless. Which I guess isn’t that hard. But well, she’s just all round musically talented.
The big break-up song of the album is Peachy. Each verse passes the blame around as to whose fault the break up is, with the chorus referring to how the ex says that life is ‘Peachy’ without her. It’s a great sing-along track; you can scream your heart out in the chorus and briefly regain your breath in the verses before breaking out into passionate song once more when the chorus returns.
The majority of this album was written in Broome (a town in rural Western Australia) which allowed for Missy to focus solely on songwriting. It was one evening when she looked up at the sky and saw how beautiful it was that she came up with the album’s title. The natural beauty of the landscape where the album was written comes across in the songs that were produced. Going North sings of going to explore new opportunities elsewhere. In this case, ‘elsewhere’ is north. Whereabouts ‘North’ is, I don’t know. But I reckon it’s somewhere rather nice. Apparently ‘answers fall like leaves’ there. I’d quite like that. Maybe one day I’ll find somewhere like that myself.
As the album ends, the final song is rawer than all the other tracks. It was recorded in Mitchell Froom’s front room and if you listen carefully, you can hear an airplane flying by towards the end of the song. There’s no need for autotuning or adding effects to Missy’s songs. Even in their rawest forms they are beautiful. The lyrics are about a man who is, quite literally, begging for forgiveness on his knees. Without much to focus on aside from Missy’s strong vocals and the background acoustic guitar, you can really feel as though you are able to connect with this character in the song. You can genuinely feel his desperation as she sings “Take this one fallen man on his knees. Saying please forgive me”.
So that concludes my review of ‘On a Clear Night’. It’s probably my favourite album ever. I hope that you can connect with the album as I did and see past the heaviness of the lyrics to discover their true beauty.
I recently thought to myself about how I could well be the most obsessive Missy Higgins fan to have never seen her play live. Anyone agree?
“I was born to try. I’ve learned to love. Be understanding. And believe in life.”
Nice words. But, perhaps surprisingly, not mine. Yes, I was born. And I do try. I’m yet to understand what love is and I’m one of the most unsympathetic people you’ll ever meet. I guess I believe in life though. So it’s partly true for me.
Anyway, these are the words from Delta Goodrem’s first hit single: Born To Try. Her route to fame was one that I admired, quite simply because it involved Neighbours. And I love Neighbours. A bit too much sometimes. Delta played the character of Nina Tucker for a while before leaving to make the classic move to music.
As with all Neighbours stars who opt to go down this path, Delta was met with a bit of criticism. However her talent made them think twice and she’s shown that you can have a genuine music career off the back of the Aussie soap.
The next song on the album was to be another success. Innocent Eyes continued to show the vocal range of Delta’s voice with longgggggg notes being held out for some time.
Not Me, Not I begins with some soft opening vocals and continues in a similar vain. Similarly, Throw It Away begins in a voice that’s anything but harsh, before it gains power in the chorus. One thing I must say about this track is that it features the cliché ‘bull in a china shop’. Not the most original or imaginative, is it really?!
I enjoy the opening verse in Lost Without You. The chorus fails to offend me either. So that makes for a likeable record. I don’t love it. I like it. You see, for some reason my like of Delta’s music doesn’t extend to my love of most female Australian Singer-Songwriters. I’m not sure why. Logically, I should like her more because of the Neighbours connection. But I don’t find myself infatuated by her voice in the same way I do to the likes of Missy. To be honest, I think I probably find her songs too happy for my taste. Ever the ‘half-full cup’, I like songs with a few heavier lyrics.
Predictable, Butterfly and In My Own Time each carry a tune well. And I can’t fault the vocal performances of any of them. I am particularly fond of the latter for the use of Delta’s voice. And for it’s slightly pessimistic tone. She’s still not negative. Just not 100% positive. Which, in my books, makes for an enjoyable song.
The lyrics to My Big Mistake are quite lovely. Back in the day when this album was a regular on my CD walkman I can recollect singing aloud to it. A lot. Very out of tune.
I equally love This Is Not Me for it’s simple chorus lyrics which are dispersed between beautiful narratives in the verses. Running Away is probably my least favourite track. The verses are pleasant, but the chorus does less to endear me. I can’t pinpoint the reasons why. I’m just not wowed by it. In contrast, Year Ago Today, is truly endearing. I love the personal tone to the verses and the slow tempo of the song.
Ending with Longer, then finally Will You Fall For Me the album remains likeable. Born To Try, Innocent Eyes and Year Ago Today are the stand out tracks for me but that’s not saying the whole album isn’t deserving of a listen. Even if only to remind you of Nina Tucker’s bursts of song in Neighbours.
A great voice. Good songs. I reckon the second album was where the songs became equally great.
I have MySpace to thank for my discovery of Anthony Snape. I can’t remember how I found his page – probably through a trail of Australian Singer-Songwriters pages – but I found him. And I’m so glad I did.
Twelve songs, plus the beautifully hidden Silvia make up the album. Signed to an independent label in Australia, I’m amazed he’s made it on to UK iTunes, but he has. And, alas, I have this wonderful album.
Opening with Daylight, an uplifting track with the metaphor, or possible literal meaning, of not wanting daylight to not to arise, Snape envelops you with the first of many catchy choruses. He also demonstrates his ability to hold a note, something he can do for an impressively long time.
“Every stumble helps you grow/learn the things you didn’t know”. Those lyrics speak true to many of the situation life throws at you; as such I felt a personal connection with Little Piece Of Love. Written in a way that it can create this personal sentiment to a wider audience, it implies that you are special. Whoever YOU maybe. However clichéd it might sound, it does succeed in portraying that message.
I was immediately taken by Walking. It’s only a short song – less than three minutes – but it captured me. The attitude taken in the lyrics is that of getting knocked down but getting up again, though in a far less irritating way than that awful chant-like song.
Lay Down Your Love was not a song I was desperately drawn to, perhaps to do with my belief that the chorus sounds a little more manufactured than some other album tracks.
I remember skiing down mountains with the lyrics to Call On Me flying around my head. It’s fast paced, just like my skiing. Although, I must credit it as being far less shaky than my skiing skills. I’m not too sure what the subject matter of the song is, and I like not knowing. It’s got a literal meaning, that’s for sure; if you’re looking for a quick fling Snape wants to hear from you. But I question if there’s not something a little more deep hidden behind it. Then again, listening to it now, he does sound pretty keen on finding some quick love. So maybe that’s just what he was craving at the time.
Sounding a little more heartbroken, the title track Disappearing Day, sings of waiting for someone’s love. It sounds a little unrequited, so going by the previous wants of a one night stand, if the lyrics are in any way factual, Snape may not have been having the greatest time relationship-wise. The song itself sticks to the formula of a tuneful chorus that refuses to evacuate your head for several days.
Frequency also has a catchy chorus. And whilst Solitude isn’t quite so memorable, it’s still well formed with some repetition to try and drill it into you that the narrative is trying to get some time alone. One of the slower paced tracks, Come, has a floaty feel about it. As though you could almost hear the sea in the background.
Now to the song I know the most about. When I was given a school project to make a fictional compilation CD of songs that I liked or had some connection to, I took it a little more seriously than my peers and wrote to Snape himself to inquire to the subject. Though I doubted a response, I was proven wrong when he responded with a line by line explanation of the song. Bless him. It turns out the song’s inspiration was drawn from previous relationships where girlfriends had been picky about the small, idiosyncratic things, although he later concluded that this could just be because of the differences between gender and how interpretations of things can vary. But from this inspiration, Idiosyncrasy was born. And it was my favourite song for quite some time. That is, until I fell in love with Sunday.
There was a stage in my life where I found myself allergic to Sundays. Whilst this may sound illogical, and I’ll admit I was never given an official medical diagnosis, I believe that an allergy to a day of the week can exist. Sunday lies at the end of the weekend. The weekend is found before you return to the routines of weekdays. The routines of weekdays that included school. And I wasn’t desperately fond of school, for many reasons I shan’t divulge, but it just wasn’t something I enjoyed waking up to. Anyway, Sunday sung to me about the day in a completely different light. Whilst Snape sung of how quickly Sunday comes around as a day to relax, I interpreted it in my own way. It encouraged me to ‘break from the cycle’ that he’d written about, as I grow to learn that Monday wouldn’t cause me any pain. And to this day, I still love this song. It connects with me in a way that only a handful of songs do. So if you take anything from this review – download Sunday. Or atleast take a listen on YouTube. The version on the album Acoustic Sunday is the one of the most amazing versions of any song I’ve ever heard. Listen to it, ok?!
In a slightly less dramatic way, Stronger along with the hidden track Silvia end the album well with the narrative of the lyrics in both telling stories that feel un-manufactured. And for this I love the album. You get the sense that Snape writes about what he wants. He makes it personal. For both his enjoyment, and yours.
A recently uploaded YouTube video shows Snape singing yet another beautifully crafted track, Balloons, that I’m left hoping will appear on a future release. His combination of vocal ability and emotive lyrics wowed me, making Disappearing Day a highly played album on my iTunes.
DISCLAIMER: Before I begin any of my reviews of Missy I feel I need to point out that I quite genuinely adore her music. She is the reason that music became such a big part of my life. Her lyrics inspired me at times when my life lacked inspiration and I really do love every song she’s ever written. Hence, you are unlikely to get any form of a balanced or unbiased review from me. Missy’s music is one of those Marmite-esque things that you either love or hate. For me, it’s 100% the former, but I’m aware that my view isn’t shared by all and you’re more than welcome to respond with moans about her “boring” voice or “depressing” lyrics. I think she’s utterly amazing. End of.
I could quite happily write an essay about every one of the ninety six songs by Missy Higgins on my iTunes. I’m not going to. But I could. Each burst of her voice enchants me. Her lyrics leave me simultaneously astounded and engrossed. The sound of the piano chords that she effortlessly plays makes me want to learn an instrument.
If you know me personally, then you’ll be more than aware of my love for Missy’s music. You should also know how disappointed I am to have never seen her play live. She’s not visited the UK since 2006, back when my super-fandom was only in it’s youth. Alas, I was on holiday for her London dates and wasn’t yet desperate enough to travel the country to see her. This is no longer the case. I would now travel anywhere in Europe to see her sing. Anywhere. With the temptation to fly to America just for one gig becoming ever more tempting. However, let’s go back to before 2006. Before I had even heard of her. Back in 2003, Missy released her first EP.
The Missy Higgins EP begins with Greed For Your Love. Bursts of Missy’s powerful voice are intertwined with verses full of metaphors screaming of heartache. It is a track, quite simply, about wanting to be loved. Clichéd? Maybe. But you need to realise that Missy was still young when she started out.
In fact, All For Believing was written when Missy was just fifteen. Winning the Triple J Unearthed radio competition in 2001, Missy then took a year out backpacking around Europe before returning to her music. The song commences with haunting vocals accompanied with some piano playing. Lyrics are sung with such honesty that make it clear why it was awarded the radio prize.
Missy’s voice immediately greets you in Falling. Her voice has a power that can overwhelm you without sounding forced. “Don’t say/What you’re about to say” are the opening lyrics. The use of the second person enhances the song, making you feel as though it’s being sung to you. Missy’s music is personal. You can connect with lyrics and often find yourself completely empathising with the words that float from Missy’s mouth.
The Special Two is one of the heavier songs written by Missy. She sings of childhood dreams being destroyed. Yet all hope is not lost as the chorus tells of there being someone else who will always be there to hold your hand throughout life. Not scared of being too deep in her lyrics, The Special Two poses philosophical questions. Asking “Is it better to tell and hurt, or lie to save their face?” Missy continues by saying the best thing to do is to never have done it in the first place. Which is better than any answer I could ever come up with. Could you answer it any better?!
This EP was just four songs. Four songs that would be the beginning of a music career. A music career that would become a huge part of my life.
I own three Ben Lee albums. On each of those albums (Awake Is The New Sleep, Ripe & The Rebirth Of Venus) I have favourite songs. Although I love Ben’s work, I’m not yet keen enough to write a review of each individually, so I’m going to briefly talk about some of my personal favourites.
Let’s start with the first time I heard Ben. Catch My Disease was all over Nova FM on my 2005 Australia Holiday. It was always playing. And, ‘scuse the cliché, I most certainly did catch the disease that he was spreading. No, I’m not talking some dodgy rash; I’m talking about the Ben Lee phenomenon.
Whilst he can be deemed as an irritating feminist by certain Australian Media Outlets, I struggle not to be caught up in his songs. I mean, in Ripe he uses the similes “Like bacon at a Bar-Mitzvah, like a lead balloon”. What’s not to love about that? Plus he has a track called What Would Jay-Z Do? You try and deny that as being something of an amusing title. We all should take a little time out of our everyday life situations and consider the actions that Mr Z would take were he posed with the same problems. And it’s through Lee’s song that you are lead to think about this obvious possibility.
Whilst a normal collaboration for Lee would be an onstage appearance with Missy Higgins, or letting her provide backing vocals for I Love Pop Music, in Birds and Bees, we hear Lee team up with Jessica Simpson. A perhaps odd choice, the song works in funny way that implies it might not have been made with the most serious intentions.
His newest album does seem a bit feminist-y. With Song For The Divine Mother Of The Earth being found on the album after Sex Without Love you feel a bit of a leap in both Lee’s morals and song writing skills. And proclaiming I’m A Woman Too is a bit too much for a recently married man. Face it, you’re a guy. Now move on.
Part of me wonders how much of his songs are about him. Are they biographical? Or entirely fiction? I can’t say. But I know that Lee knows how to laugh at himself. Having seen him perform Ben Lee You Suck live, along with watching the link he posted to The Chaser’s song wishing death upon him, you get the impression that he doesn’t take himself too seriously. Which is good for someone who talks about the price of oil and renewable energy in a pop song.
Numb shows honesty about the music industry before slagging off your label became cool. Refusing to go numb is something that Lee has continued to do as he makes new music. Changing his style with each new album, he keeps his listeners waiting apprehensively for what will come next. And so, despite not being entirely won over by his last album, I’m still suffering from the aforementioned disease.