SAFIA @ Enmore Theatre 18.11.16

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Seats? What seats? Everyone became a dancer at SAFIA’s Enmore Theatre gig last Friday.

4/5

Some gigs are led by the performers, leaving audiences in the wake of their brilliance. Some (not-so-great) gigs are led by the audience, dutifully egging on an artist who over-promised and under-delivered. And still other (definitely great) gigs are a manifestation of glorious performer/audience teamwork; a cycle that is the antithesis of vicious, amplifying vibe upon enthusiastic vibe to create an outpouring of abandoned self-expression for both parties.

SAFIA and their wonderful fans succeeded in delivering something like the latter at the Enmore Theatre on Friday night.

Sydney duo Set Mo had amply warmed the crowd with their persuasive disco tunes, but the roar that greeted SAFIA’s appearance on stage was worthy of a band with twice their (already impressive) success. An eclectic, casual and irrepressibly cheerful bunch, it was clear this audience had been with SAFIA for a while. Singing their hearts out from the get-go and dancing in their seats, they were rewarded with multiple confetti cannons, funky visuals and a hella lot of energy.

Pumping through a set list filled with tracks from their debut album Internal, as well as old favourites such as Make Them Wheels Roll , Counting Sheep and Embracing Me, SAFIA hurled themselves tirelessly at an audience who lovingly returned the energy tenfold. Each song was greeted like a hit single; every lyric was hollered by the devoted; and even those of us who usually treat seats as sacred carriers of personal space, abandoned them to better allow our bodies to move instinctively with the beats. Within 20 minutes the entire theatre was on its feet, grooving as one big party.

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(Source)

If only someone had put a Fitbit on frontman Ben Woolner, he would surely have racked up his 10,000 steps within the hour, running from end to end like a crackling ball of electricity. While bandmates Michael Bell and Harry Sayers stayed put till the end, their contribution was just as intense – and the throngs of outstretched arms when they finally approached the stage edge proved their equal popularity.

SAFIA is certainly a band that comes to life on the stage. Already catchy and heartfelt, their electronic pop explodes with new immediacy when heard in the flesh; the grooves have an all-encompassing presence, and there was a sense of communal catharsis as the fans bellowed the chorus of My Love Is Gone.

In a city where live music venues are dying left, right and centre, a gig like this goes a long way to instil confidence and hope in the Sydney music scene. And in a day and age where millennials are decried for their anti-social behaviour, it was nice to revel in a crowd of young people encouraging others to dance, singing with abandon and happily enjoying the full-body effects of bloody good dance music.

Things I think while listening to the radio: part II

25. Drake – One Dance

WHY THE HELL IS THIS STILL ON THE RADIO.

24. Andy Grammar – Fresh Eyes

This actually does sound fresh, given it hasn’t reached grotesquely overplayed status yet. It’s average in the extreme, though.

23. Zara Larsson – Ain’t My Fault

That I am switching radio stations right now? Yes Zara, it is.

22. Illy ft. Anne-Marie – Catch 22

I like my rap with a catchy chorus to break up the monotony, so I am SOLD. Plus, there’s a sense of camaraderie about this track that means it’s unlikely to go stale anytime soon. Winning.

21. FRENSHIP – Capsize

Peaceful filler material. Good driving music. Mindless ease. And yes, those are all backhanded compliments.

20. Mike Perry and Shy Martin – The Ocean

I guess I can groove to this. For the millionth time.

19. Jonas Blue – Perfect Strangers

I guess I can groove to this. For the millionth time.

18. Starley – Call On Me

I guess I can groove to this. For the millionth time.

17. Shawn Mendes – Mercy

NONONONONONONONONONONONONONO. No more. Mercy. Please. #ironyintheextreme

16. Nevada et. al. – The Mack

I guess I can-…but really, can we just inject some new tunes already?!

15. Little Mix – Shout Out To My Ex

If you do not hear the fun in this, you are surely a rock in human form.

14. Martin Garrix and Bebe Rexha – In The Name Of Love

Time to headbang in slow motion/sing with much angst. I have no shame.

13. Bruno Mars – 24K Magic

New Bruno Mars?! OMG yay!! Wait…it’s a lukewarm Uptown Funk. Dammit.

12. Drake – Fake Love

Oh Drake…I don’t know how you do it, but your voice annoys the absolute bejeezus out of me. This song is no exception.

11. Sia – The Greatest

Oh God, how am I going to convince my vocal students not to try and sing like that? Sounds simultaneously painful and kickass. Thanks Sia. Technique aside, I shall happily endorse this song.

10. Calvin Harris – My Way

How am I not yet sick of this song? That riff, dammit. So catchy, so danceable.

9. Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj – Side To Side

I may have to wash my ears out afterwards, but I am going to listen to this song anyway. Coz hot damn, that beat.

8. Hailee Steinfeld – Starving

I didn’t know that I was starving until you reminded me Hailee. And now I’m hungry and grumpy, because all three major radio stations are playing your song at the same time. For the fifth time this half hour.

7. DJ Snake ft. Justin Bieber – Let Me Love You

Good lyrics, good groove…I am going to holler that chorus like my life depends on it.

6. Major Lazer ft. Justin Bieber and MO – Cold Water

More Bieber?! What luck! A little less catchy, but still seamless. Good times.

5. Maroon 5 and Kendrick Lamar – Don’t Wanna Know

Meh. *nods head absentmindedly*

4. The Chainsmokers ft. Phoebe Ryan – All We Know

All you know, Chainsmokers, is how to make songs that sound like Closer.

3. James Arthur – Say You Won’t Let Go

Ladies and gentlemen, successfully filling the void that Jamie Lawson left when we finally got over I Wasn’t Expecting That, please welcome Mr James Arthur! Can we all move on from the cutesy acoustic ballads now?

2. The Chainsmokers ft. Halsey – Closer

Why is that riff not more annoying? Is it annoying? Do I like it? Oh yay Halsey’s singing.

1. The Weeknd ft. Daft Punk – Starboy

Must there be a counter-intuitive emphasis on the end of each phrase? It messes with my classical brain. Also there’s only so many times I can tolerate ‘ah’ and its rhyming colleagues. Not feeling this one Weeknd, soz dude.

Things I think while listening to the radio: part I

It’s been a long week. And a long week – for me – involves long drives. Or at least, multiple longish ones.

This week I was also unhappily disorganised – read, left key items from my beloved CD collection at home. So, FM radio it was. Oh woe was I.

Don’t get me wrong, mainstream radio offers me guilty pleasures on a regular basis (I am a newly converted Belieber, after all). But one week solid of JUST. RADIO. was more than any person should have to resort to.

While it may feel like I listened to the same five songs all week, apparently there were at least 50 in rotation…HEAVY rotation.

Strange things happen to songs when they are overplayed…here’s an insight into the mental anguish* that occurs:

*strong use of melodrama intentional

50. Adele – Send My Love To Your New Lover

Thank God 25 hasn’t passed its radio date yet. *cue heartfelt singalong*

49. Justin Timberlake – CAN’T STOP THE FEELING!

WHY IS THIS TITLE ALWAYS IN CAPITALS? WHY DOES IT ALWAYS SOUND LIKE IT’S BEING SUNG IN CAPITALS? I USED TO LOVE THIS AND NOW IT’S A MONSTER.

48. Calvin Harris ft. Rhianna – This Is What You Came For

Taylor Swift should be singing this, Rhianna sounds bored.

47. gnash ft. Olivia O’Brien – i hate u, i love u

Nononononononononononononononono. *changes station*

46. Drake and Rhianna – Too Good

A venomous song, without the venom. Bring back Carly Simon please.

45. Joel Adams – Please Don’t Go

Emotive moaning. Next.

44. Lil Wayne et. al. – Sucker For Pain

Not sure if this is an ode to S&M, or a misguided commentary on mental dysfunction. Feel safer betting on the former.

43. Terror Jr – Come First

Thought this was a lacklustre version of Can’t Keep My Hands To Myself for a second…then realised it was just lacklustre.

42. The Chainsmokers ft. Daya – Don’t Let Me Down

Okay. Yes. This is cool. Overplayed, but cool.

41. Twenty One Pilots – Heathens

What is this edgy piece of intelligence doing on the FM airwaves? Transcending the drivel, that’s what.

40. Cheat Codes and Dante Klein – Let Me Hold You (Turn Me On)

Next.

39. NEIKED ft. Dyo – Sexual

Hell yes, this is a nice little piece of songwriting. Grammatically dubious chorus lyrics, but I’m singing along anyway.

38. Niall Horan – This Town

Niall, Niall, Niall. You aimed valiantly for ‘poignant’, missed by a mile and landed squarely in ‘yawn-worthy’. Also ‘whingy’ and ‘cliche-riddled’.

37. MO – Final Song

*adds to list of songs to learn all lyrics to because it’s such a damn cool singalong*

36. Coldplay ft. Seeb – Hymn For The Weekend

A Coldplay song I almost care about! For two minutes. Pity it’s 3’32”.

35. Cashmere Cat et. al. – Trust Nobody

Sexy talk, autotune and celeb cameos. Ahh, the tried and tested formula…packaged into something as charismatic as plastic. Next.

34. Marc E Bassy and G-Eazy – You & Me

Oooh, there’s a reggae thing happening. I like.

33. Shawn Mendes – Treat You Better

Ahhhh, it was only a matter of time before you showed up, Mendes. This is a decent tune, I’m sure I can listen to it for the bazillionth ti-…nope. Nope. I’m done.

32. Peking Duck and Elliphant – Stranger

*zones out and focuses on traffic/what to cook for dinner*

31. Alessia Cara – Scars To Your Beautiful

I am okay with listening to empowering cliches. Bored, but okay.

30. Calum Scott – Dancing On My Own

There is a reason she’s not dancing with you, Calum. Go and tell Shawn Mendes about it, he’ll understand. Could even be a collab in it.

29. Flume ft. Tove Lo – Say It

Yessssssssssssssssss, there is something so inherently bad-ass about this track. So much tension, so much release. Crank. That. Volume.

28. Anne-Marie – Alarm

Yeahhhh boi, another solid TUNE…well, for the first chorus anyway. Then it has the same monotonous effect as a real alarm. Wahh why does all this music lack staying power?!

27. Illy ft. Vera Blue – Papercuts

Yeah. Mm. Maybe. Kinda. Sorta. Next.

26. Tove Lo – Cool Girl

*zoning out again*

Three albums to add to your library right now

Dustin Tebbutt – First Light

Vance Joy fans rejoice – for those of us who have outgrown Riptide and its fellows, Tebbutt’s latest release offers a perfect (dare I say, more grown-up) alternative. At once chilled out and uplifting, the gentle mix of acoustic guitar, light percussion and occasional layer of electronica, support Tebbutt’s floating vocal deliveries. Cue lazy Sunday morning.

Lakuta – Brothers and Sisters

If Western club music has you wanting a little more, look no further than the global sounds of Lakuta. Including musicians from Africa, Spain and the UK, this group combines the very best of danceable soul, disco and funk with socio-political statements, sensual Latin vibes and infectious Afro-beat rhythms.

Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker

I don’t remember being this awestruck by musical charisma since I first heard Tom Waits’ Rain Dogs in my early uni days – Cohen’s latest album is absolutely bloody mesmerising. Skeletal accompaniments and gospel choirs take a backseat to musings that have been 82 years in the making. “I’m ready, Lord” growls Cohen, to which your ears will reply “Take me, take me now”.

Michael Buble: Nobody But Me (Deluxe Version)

michael-buble-nobody-but-me-2016-2480x2480Album: Nobody But Me (Deluxe Version)
Artist: Michael Buble
Label: Reprise Records
Released: October 21, 2016

RATING: 2.5/5 STARS

Michael Buble has been around long enough to hone his template to perfection; so while it is both comforting and disappointing to discover I could have written this review just as accurately without actually listening to his latest record, it is certainly not a surprise. Nobody But Me is yet another perfectly crafted album of knee-melting ballads, toe-tapping jazz, and pop tunes of the sweetest vanilla. Admittedly, there’s less of the latin influence I danced to incessantly when To Be Loved hit the shelves, and the brass blasts are fewer and smoother than those of its predecessor, but for the most part Nobody But Me is of the same mould.

There’s the uplifting but forgettable pop original (I Believe In You), the cheeky rock ‘n’ roll number (Nobody But Me), the guest cameo (Meghan Trainor, on Someday), the deliciously scathing revenge song (I Wanna Be Around), the no-brainer classic covers (My Baby Just Cares For Me, My Kind Of Girl), the classic cover that didn’t really work (God Only Knows…how much better this version could have been, were it not so slow and stilted) and thankfully, the gorgeous reimagining of a vintage sound (On An Evening In Roma). In between these certainties lie a few slower and/or ordinary numbers (The Very Thought Of You, Today Is Yesterday’s Tomorrow) that fill the gaps and carry us to the bonus tracks, if you’ve chosen the deluxe version for your purchase (not a terrible idea, as Take You Away is a fun little cha cha).

Consistency is usually reassuring, but this time around it’s made me restless to hear a little more daring from Buble. He must certainly be applauded for maintaining a fresh sound – and for offering new material alongside the classics – but Nobody But Me continues the trend of over-production in his more recent work. Gone is the rawness we heard in 2007’s I’m Your Man, and where is the innovation that created that extraordinary jazz cover of The Beatles’ Can’t Buy Me Love?

While the radio stations will likely delight in the cutesy ukulele that accompanies Buble and Trainor in the safe ray of sunshine that is Someday, I’ll listen to On An Evening In Roma and dream of bygone days when Buble’s albums oozed with nuance and romance.

On repeat lately: radio edition

I blame my car for my radio habit. Minus Bluetooth and an auxiliary input, my dear little old-school Golf forced me to either:

a) Keep every CD I own on the passenger seat/car floor or
b) Turn on the damn radio.

After a brief tussle with option a) that resulted in many, many cracked jewel cases, option b) took precedence…with AM radio, because I am actually an 80 year-old in the body of a 24 year-old (I also like tea and early nights. Form a line, gentlemen).

Luckily I also have a younger brother who, if I let him, does a pretty good job of assisting me on the street-cred front. Together, little bro and his car’s sub-woofer gently introduced me to the wonders of FM radio, which filter effortlessly into the house from the driveway, on a daily basis.

On delving into FM territory during my commutes over the last few weeks, I discovered that there is a simple set of rules for FM stations: Find approximately five catchy songs. Repeat ad nauseum. Talk about inane things in between.

And yet…I’m still listening. Well, channel-flicking. Good pop is a mysterious branch of sorcery and I unwittingly strayed into its (evil?) clutches. Hashtag ‘guilty pleasures’. Don’t judge me (I already have).

#5. Justin Beiber – Sorry

After the shock of becoming a Swifty last year, I’m not ready to accept Belieber status as well…but I just can’t help turning this one up every time it’s on. #sorrynotsorry #seewhatIdidthere

#4. Justin Timberlake – Can’t Stop The Feeling

It still doesn’t top SexyBack, but this track has almost made me late for work, thanks to my inability to turn the radio off mid-song.

#3. Sia – Cheap Thrills

Anything with a samba beat makes love to my ears, so this one gets me every. damn. time.

#2. Ariana Grande – Dangerous Woman

In my defence, I would like to state that I have never belted out the chorus of this song while performing moves I am not hot enough to pull off. In the interests of journalistic integrity, I also need to state that the previous sentence is a barefaced lie.

#1. DNCE – Cake By The Ocean

And the winner is…DNCE of course. Because hot damn*, I’m somehow never sorry to hear this song, despite the obscene amount of airplay it’s getting. Sorcery, I say!!

*lyric reference totally intended

 

Tinpan Orange @ The Vanguard 20.5.16

Tinpan Orange on stage at The Vanguard last Friday


4.5/5

The red wine flowed generously among the diners of The Vanguard last Friday, as they held hands in the candlelight or chatted animatedly to friends over multiple courses of dinner. With the median age hovering closer to 50 than 25, this was a crowd who likes to gig in comfort – and with such mesmerising performers as Tinpan Orange on the bill, why not?

The mood was unsurprisingly mellow before support act Jim Lawrie took the stage to serenade us. His lilac-hued tales of heartbreak, featuring resolute circles of emotional self-destruction, added an extra layer to the room’s comfortable stupor. It seemed we might never emerge from these fuzzy depths of melancholy, but they vanished the instant Emily Lubitz stepped on stage.

Blessed though she is with a magnetic stage presence and bewitching voice, Tinpan Orange’s front woman is also about as unaffected as they come. Chatting candidly about her inspirations, Emily readily admitted to borderline plagiarism and seeking songwriting assistance from Facebook, causing giggles and guffaws from every seat.

Beginning with the title track off new release Love Is A Dog, Tinpan powered through a crowd-pleasing set list that was equal parts nostalgia, and a persuasive argument for the purchase of their new material. Over The Sun favourites Birdy and Barcelona made a well-received appearance, while Song For Frida Kahlo satisfied the more loyal fans in the audience. But it was the band’s new songs that sounded freshest and most assured.

It is likely some of that assurance comes from Tinpan Orange’s newly refined musical identity. There is a cohesiveness to their latest album borne of artistic confidence, and it manifested in the quiet conviction that underpinned all their deliveries. Guitarist Jesse Lubitz provided solid rhythmic support not just in his playing, but in guiding the set list seamlessly through its paces, while Emily left us breathless in the wake of her candid vocal explorations.

The addition of violin virtuoso Alex Burkoy brought yet another dimension to the Tinpan sound – and it damn near made the show. At first it seemed Burkoy was only there to provide the melodic bass lines we were all familiar with, but suddenly we found ourselves in the middle of a blistering violin solo that garnered a roar from the audience when it finally ended.

The fireworks were kept to a tasteful minimum however. Cities of Gold soared tenderly above the hushed crowd, Fools and Cowboys charmed and amused with its cautionary advice, and Rich Man was every bit as captivating as it sounds on the record. But it was unassuming album-closer Leopard that delivered that moment of pure,  spine-tingling intimacy that us gig-goers secretly hope every live encounter will offer up. Walking casually among the tables, the band clambered up on chairs and issued forth with disarming candour, stunning musicianship and a very real awareness of who they were sharing the room with.

An encore was non-negotiable and it came, in the form of a Lubitz-ised cover of Hank Williams’ Jambalaya. An odd choice perhaps, from a band whose audience had consistently begged for their originals, but it was further proof that these musicians’ confident brushstrokes can be applied to other canvases with stunning effect.

SINGLE REVIEW: Tinpan Orange’s ‘Rich Man’

Four stars

With their loving attention to detail, quirky topic material and Emily Lubitz’s eerie-yet-approachable vocals, it’s hardly surprising this standout Aussie act is charging ahead with their 5th studio album. Due for release on April 8, Love Is A Dog is available for pre-order now, and Rich Man is the first single off the album.

Tremulous guitar arpeggios let Lubitz’s elastic croon take centre stage in the opening bars; applying the first brushstrokes to the shady character of this cautionary tale: “He can buy the love he needs/ Opens doors with all his keys/ Takes you where the people know/ Wear it like it’s yours to own”.

Feather-light piano accents may raise goosebumps, helped along by the plaintive violin harmonies. You can almost feel Lubitz’s breath close to your ear, thanks to the intimacy of the vocal delivery. Later, the sparsest of bass lines is provided by the piano and brushed snares whisper secretively in the background.

If Rich Man is anything to go by, Tinpan Orange are moving away from the wayward freshness of 2012’s Over The Sun (incidentally the first album I reviewed for The Sydney Morning Herald – excuse my nostalgia), due probably to the inevitable march of maturity. There’s a sultry darkness, a whiff of hard-earned wisdom and a deeper sensuality to this track than their previous work.

On repeat lately (#3)

St Lucia – Do You Remember

So. Much. 1980’s. Goodness. Do you need another reason? Okay then, explosive indie-pop choruses and exuberant waves of synth. This one is just bursting out of its skin with joy. And so will you.

Sally Seltmann – Heart That’s Pounding

It would be remiss of me to do an On Repeat Lately post without mentioning Ms Seltmann’s Heart That’s Pounding album. Every few months it makes a reappearance and goes on heavy rotation during my daily commute – and every few months it sounds as sweet and fresh as the first time I heard it.

The Heavy – Since You’ve Been Gone

I was lucky enough to be given a pre-release version of the entire album for review, but I highly suggest you groove along to this funky-as-hell single until April 1 brings the full track-listing.

Lontalius – A Feeling So Sweet

New Zealand teen Eddie Johnston (aka. Lontalius) puts insomnia, insecurity and self-examination to music in a way so delicate it might just blow away on the breeze. It feels wrong to only list one song from a collection that is so beautifully cohesive it should be listened to as a whole.

City of the Sun – Brothers

(Listen to Brothers on iTunes here)

Earthy instrumentals that sound like the quieter sibling of Bears With Guns. Reverb-laden guitar hooks echo into the spaces between soft tambourine accents and free-spirited strumming rhythms. Good lord, this stuff is dreamy.

Follow Favourites

 

Twitter is perhaps my very favourite way to discover new music. Sorry PR people, I read your press releases too – but it’s such a satisfying surprise to discover a new favourite jam in-between catching up on the day’s news.

There’s also the added advantage of those emerging artists who follow me as soon as they see the words “music critic” in my profile. I appreciate that the music industry is a tough ol’ place, so I thought I’d spend an afternoon listening to the work of the artists in my “Followers” list. Because, #lazyweekend.

Happily, I discovered a few great tunes that had previously slipped under my radar – and possibly snuck past you as well. Enjoy.

Tori Forsyth – Black Bird EP

I don’t know about you, but I never get tired of good and moody folk tunes. Tinge them with a haunting country twang and things get even better. That’s exactly what Hunter Valley NSW local Tori Forsyth has done in her debut EP, and it’s a quiet-spoken gem you really shouldn’t miss. ‘Nuff said, just go listen.

Mabel – Rachel EP

Sydney band Mabel are, according to their Twitter profile, “The world’s single greatest band ever”. Curious? I was too. But then, they only have 250 followers, so we can safely assume they’re just a fun-loving bunch who don’t take themselves too seriously.

Mabel’s sound is crunchy, energetic garage rock meets boppy, feel-good pop. Hard enough to headbang to, groovy enough to dance to; not wildly original, but a hella lot of fun. Start your weekend off right with Spaceman:

Into Orbit – Dark Matter

It’s difficult to believe this New Zealand duo is just that – a duo. For lovers of post/prog rock, the mindblowing volume and depth of one drummer and one guitarist (and, okay, obviously a helping hand from technology) will be an adrenaline rush of satisfyingly epic proportions. Reminiscent of sleepmakeswaves and Porcupine Tree, Dark Matter delivers an experimental explosion that is all-encompassing, yet coherent.

They’re giving this one away for free too, so head on over to their Bandcamp to download.

Episodes – Hunny Please

There really isn’t another way to put it: this track has swag. Although the Brighton four-piece might call their work “electro indie pop”, there’s a heavier, bluesy vibe to Hunny. You can feel it in the smokin’ bass lines, and hear it in vocalist Alana Westall’s sensual, effortless melisma. These kids could be ones to watch.

 

Over The Trees – Garbage Crown

Restless cello, ethereal harmonies, additive meters and eccentric lyrics – this driving tune is a breezy, yet thoughtful, addition to the indie rock genre. The melody is difficult to grasp and will vanish almost as quickly as it arrived, but you’ll likely find your foot tapping long after its 3’22” has passed you by.

Are you an emerging artist? Want your work featured? Follow me on Twitter @jessie_adora so I can check out your tunes – always keen for new sounds to feature!