cds sent to Half A Cow that impressed us...
THE SOLOMONS Some Kind Of Aid
|The Solomons are a six-piece band from Melbourne and have pressed up this two track cd in anticipation of a debut EP which they intend to release early 2010. And guess what? It’s great! |
The first track ‘Some Kind of Aid’ features the lead vocals of bassist Cass Allen and is a 60s-inspired pop song with what some would say has a Youmees-by-numbers intro. The band know their chops and keep it both tight and rollicking. I have no doubt you’ll be hearing this track on community radio stations around the country, if not the National Youth Network, given a chance.
‘Rise And Fall’ shows off the vocals of the Solomons other lead vocalist Victor Finkel. It has a late 80s English feel to it (think Stone Roses and Ride) but to us it sounds like early Welcome Mat. It’s tops! Not content to just stand there strutting his stuff, Victor also plays trumpet.
Both songs are written by guitarist Doug Hind and are given the extra attention that a band boasting two guitars, keyboards, trumpet and loads of vocals can give. I can imagine live on stage is where these guys will impress. Sydney-siders will look at their long list of up and coming gigs around Melbourne with a sad face of envy and wonder why bands can’t play every week at a handful of supportive venues like they can down south. Or so it seems.
What I want to know is: the guy front and centre, is he Victor the lead singer or Doug the songwriter? Just curious. ;) –SH
the Solomons myspace . facebook
email: solomonsband (@) hotmail.com
DAVE SEASIDE The Cow's Mouth
|email: seasideswifty (@) hotmail.com|
Dave Seaside is a Sydney-sider who was inspired during a trip to India to write some of the songs on his eleven track album The Cow's Mouth. Yes, we have no sitars. What we have are some laid back tunes, based around the cruisy acoustic guitar and vocals of Dave Seaside backed with bass and percussion by Dave Highett and a smidgeon of cello by Lisa. Oh, and Wompy plays the thumb piano.
Reading the (handwritten! practically non-existent these days) bio also had me climbing up the ladder and dusting off the dictionary from the top shelf (okay, the Macquarie Dictionary button on the computer) to find out what rubato means as in “the first song 'Camels and Horses' has a major rubato time change between verse and chorus to give the effect of a cantering beast”. You learn something every day.
I enjoyed Dave's songs, which were recorded in Nimbin this year, and he has a voice which reminded me of Laurence from English band Felt, although the music is very different. Dave has some interesting observations (such as the very catchy 'Living Without Rain') about life and I enjoyed the album from beginning to end. My favourite song is 'Dragged Me Away' and it is here you can experience the 'thumb piano' which is most likely another name for a kalimba…it's a beautiful song. - ND
AFXJIM Blackout Music
I'd played this album a couple of times and enjoyed it immensely – all before I read the cd slick and discovered that I'd seen (or heard) the maker – one Travis Baird – in a whole legion of Sydney-based bands. And not just any old bands. Bands released by Half A Cow! Like Kid Cornered and el Mopa. And the most wonderful girl group cover band, the Bonettes (ah, gush!). And this Travis guy is what they used to call in the trade, a triathlete-plus. That means he plays every instrument on the album, including the brass.
Therefore what we have here is the offerings of a multi-instrumentalist. Not content to give his all in main bands Founder and the Woods Themselves Travis has had time over the last four years to put together this 10 track cd of self-described 'folktronica' which combines a kaleidoscopic spread of instruments and found sounds borrowed from children's stories, vocal jazz records, Hungarian composers, police scanners and the arguments of strangers.
It's not all instrumental soundtrack music while you're stoned or washing up. There's some regular laidback indie-rock with cruisy acoustic guitars and well-hidden vocals. And a great "ba-da-ba-ba" pop song in 'Arequipa' which has the coolest lead guitar dangin' its way through its psychedelic peace march. Blackout Music does get incredibly good toward the end.
This cd really grew on me. It made me think: if Half A Cow was to release a record that used some samples from old records, what would be the situation regarding copyright ownership. Do we stick it to the man or try and track down the obscure Hungarian composer and pay them their 99 cents? Either way, Afxjm has made a damn good record and if you like your records a bit experimental and chorus-free then this is for you. There's lots to enjoy. Take a trip with Afxjim. Or is that AFXJIM. It's good soft and good loud. - ND
THE MAGUS Silver Lines
|myspace . website |
email: harveyosullivan (@) gmail.com
This is the second time The Magus have been our cd of the week and their somewhat meandering and organic experiments have been tidied up and taken a new course of blissful pop. But fear not, space cowboys! They still maintain a huge dollop of the meandering psychedelia that attracted me to them in the first place.
The Magus are Robin Stone and Harvey O'Sullivan and they originally played together in psych-rock band Froghollow in the small town of Wingello, south of Sydney. According to the bio, 'their sound has evolved over the years, from the early days of psychedelic guitar wanderings…to heavy industrial tracks in the vein of Einsturzende Neubauten…to the sound they seemed to have settled on for the last few years – their own brand of shoegazing – where the guitars are thick and hazy, vocals are whispered and buried and drums form the backbone around which everything moves.'
Well said! That pretty much sums up these four new songs from The Magus but it's only really the first one 'Silver Lines' that is given the full 'shoegaze' pop treatment complete with 90s tremolo guitar, polite and melodic Peter Hook-style bass, a similar New Order-style solo and a female vocal reprising the chorus in the last quarter of the song.
Now these Magusovians couldn't help themselves from falling into the sleepyhead pit of loose love-in music and the remaining three songs start heading back to the familiar territory of laidback space rock. 'Erewhon2' is a slow stomper that builds up into a compelling groove. 'Fertile' has a fantastic rubbery guitar sound, like a round and shiny guitar ball being ping-ponged from side to side. The last song 'The Sea…' has the classic bedroom vocal – where the singing is so quiet it sounds like he doesn't want to wake the sleeping neighbour.
One half of The Magus currently lives in Sydney's inner west and the other half still lives in Wingello and they come together semi-regularly to record and jam with their 'live' drummer Jacqueline McCue. Good stuff! - ND
"Ekkies! Trips! Tickets to Oasis!" the scalper was yelling under his breath, a feat only those who don't want to attract too much attention can do. "Tickets to Oasis!"
I didn't need to read the bio that came this cd to know that The Reflectors are fans of Oasis. You can here their confident wall of pop throughout most of these tracks. But to be fair, you can also hear the Beatles, Bowie, Soundtrack Of Our Lives and our own Sidewinder. And they sound very good. And they know it too (according to their bio - more on that later!).
The Reflectors are from Melbourne and claim the six songs on their cd have "remarkable variety and breadth." Not so sure about the variety as it's only really the last two songs that stray from the fuzzed-up guitar rock.
The first, 'Colossomus', has all the hallmarks of an 'epic' - lots of backing vocals, those big, affected guitars, an Oasis middle 8 with sweet falsetto - but at only 2 minutes 53 seconds, it is a short epic, and that's what really makes the song. It would have dragged on if it was the expected 4- or 5 minutes long.
'Relaxed and Understood' has a great melody and overall feel with the vocals sounding a bit like Simon Day from Ratcat. It's another big sounding song. The next one 'Wild Delusions' is the one that conjured up the English scalper circa 1994. There's some cool guitar dangin' at the end of the song followed by a Bowie-esque vocal chorus that is absolutely fab. These boys know how to pack a lot into one song.
In my opinion, The Reflectors have saved the best until second last. 'Reality' has a slight country sound to it. It cruises along and makes me wish there was either more like this one or that the band had packed away some of the guitar pedals on the other tracks. They should have put this second. I nearly didn't get through the whole cd and it was this track that made me go back and listen to it all over again.
The final song 'Earlier Tonight' has been coated with a subtle layer of psychedelia. It starts out all floaty-dreamy and then there's a pause…more melancholia with the loveliest singing…it builds up…more guitars come in around 2 minutes…building…then BANG! At 3 minutes the song really takes off. It's the big set closer and finally The Reflectors proudly display the epic song you knew they had in them the whole time.
But there's one thing that really irks me. It's the bio. It's full of - well I don't know how to say this except in true Australian style - it's full of wanky descriptions of themselves and their songs. But hey let's not be too critical. They're just proud of what they have achieved. Maybe if we were in America where they don't seem to mind such self-confidence, but here we cut our tall poppies down and this bio won't win over the cool crowd. The music should though - it's exceptionally good, or as the bio says: "the Reflectors create interesting, heartfelt rock 'n' roll songs about the desperation that accompanies affluence, expectations and routine." And later: "In a time of infinite digital distraction and material pleasantries the Reflectors cut through the phenomena, letting out the sound of what we strive to keep hidden. What rock and roll should be: an experience and a release."
See what I mean? Some advice: just let the music speak for itself. - ND
HARVEY SWAGGER BAND
|myspace . website |
What's the word that sounds like what it is describing? Hang on a tick, I'll go find out.
I'm back. After an extended discussion with my colleagues, we decided that what I was after is not onomatopoeia but a simple apt. So: The Harvey Swagger Band has a very apt band name. Fitting was another choice. Yes, they swagger, of course they do. And they swoon and sway, too.
The Harvey Swagger Band formed in Sydney in 2004. Lead singer and guitarist Harvey Russell is backed by the Brothers Langman – Aaron on bass and Marcus on the drums. Recently "the vivacious" Josie Rothwell has been added to the mix on keyboards and vocals. In their bio they say the band's "rougher edges have been smoothed and it's focus has been renewed".
And they are right. These five songs, at once tough and rollicking, have been given some delicious icing all over the top. Josie's singing alongside Harvey is wonderful and makes these already catchy songs even more delectable.
The first three songs could all be A-siders in their own right. Their first song 'Crossfire' comes across as their "telling white lies", the big hit back in the 80s for the Georgia Satellites. Not that the Harvey Swagger Band sound like the Georgia Satellites but I used to love 'White Lies' a lot and I'm loving 'Crossfire' too. In that half-rock-half-country way. The last song has that tom-tom jungle beat used well by the Hoodoo Gurus. And put to good use here, too.
Yes, Harvey Swagger Band is a little bit country (rock) and a little bit pop. They do it sincerely and do it well. - ND
KATE RAE - August 2009
- July 2009
CABARET CALLADO - June 2009
THE SAGE EVOLUTION
- April 2009
CAPITAL - March 2009
LINE DRAWINGS - March 2009
THE LIGHT BRIGADE
- February 2009
GROTS VEGAS - February 2009
THE CHELSEA DRUGSTORE - February 2009
LIONEL LEE - January 2009
MAGIC ROB - December 2008
PETER STEIN - November 2008
LARMO CUSACK - November 2008
PAUL DAVIES - November 2008
PORTAL WINDOW - November 2008
THE ISLE OF MAN - October 2008
NELL WEBBER - October 2008
THE CHARLES MANSON EXPERIMENT - October 2008
THE BATASCOUTS - September 2008
KENT EASTWOOD - September 2008
LOLA FLASH - August 2008
BENJAMIN SHAW - August 2008
BAMBINO KORESH - July 2008
THE LEED FIENDS - July 2008
THE WELLS - June 2008
KATE BRADLEY & the Goodbye Horses - June 2008
WE GROW UP - May 2008
THE LOVE EXPLOSION - December 2007
LINDSAY PHILLIPS - November 2007
It’s a tie! IGOR ALEINIK + MAXIM BATOV - October 2007
RYAN STERLING - September 2007
EVA POPOV - August 2007
TEMPO DE NAUGHTY - June 2007
CLAUDIA WOODS - April 2007
ARON ATTWOOD - March 2007
THE SIESTAS - February 2007
IVONA - January 2007
THE STICKS - December 2006
ELLE SKIES - November 2006
THE FLYING COLOURS - November 2006
ARTICHOKE HEART SOUFFLÉ - September 2006
ANDREW KEESE & THE ASSOCIATES - July 2006
LUCY LEHMANN - May 2006
LUKE RUSSELL - April 2006
Where Are They Now? - April 2006
RUNNING WITH HORSES
- March 2006
WINDOW - January 2006
PIP SMITH AND RED STAR - January 2006
PAPER PLANES - December 2005
SHOOT THE GENIE - November 2005
View Advice For Sending Demos
Previous Almost Famous - cd of the week!
MARCH-APRIL 2004 The Bitter End, Transporter, Paper
Crane, Red Giant
NOV 2003-FEBRUARY 2004Mr Grass, Chris Eaves, Angel Ice, Nick
Ainsworth & The Former Bullies
OCTOBER 2003 Capital City, Erik Damberg, The Vacant Lanes,
Winnie, Toby Mendelson, Senani, Wilberforce
JUNE 2003 Wons Phreely, Jerkwater
APRIL-MAY 2003 The Rawhypnols, Wayfaring Strangers, Lizz-aard,
OCTOBER-DECEMBER 2002 Sarah Sarah, Mirablue, Skeptic, Dog Rocket,
The Bigger Lovers, Grise, Treetops
MARCH-APRIL 2002 Genes, Landy, The Sound Platform
JANUARY 2002 Temporal Lobe, Hero Puppy, The Carousel, Randy Lee Majors, Sharmelle Peterson
DECEMBER 2001 Sugarchild, The Rectifiers
NOVEMBER 2001 The Drones, The Savages, Sideshow, Arbuckle
OCTOBER 2001 Halfway, Earth To Nigel, Closure, A Cat Called Monty
Some Advice When Sending Demos
(now out-dated letter from 2009)
Half A Cow Records is sent about two hundred demos a year. With so many, it's
near-impossible to give every band the response that we feel they deserve, though it might be encouraging to
know that Sidewinder, Daisygrinders, Spdfgh, Art of Fighting, Vermishus and The Savages all came to our attention
through their demos. However, in an attempt to acknowledge all the effort, time and money that goes into
recording a demo, we have established our 'Demo Of The Week', where we attempt to highlight those bands
we feel stand out, for whatever reasons.
Just remember that in music there is no right or wrong, and any feedback you
receive from us is just one person's opinion, not the be-all and end-all.
To save on cd and postage costs, do a bit of homework on the record labels that you're sending your
demo to. After receiving yet another mainstream "popstars" demo, we do wonder why they've sent it to us...
Keep the bio short and sweet, and don't go to too much
trouble with the artwork unless you want to - after all, it's the music that
counts. A cd that got our attention had a black and white photocopy of a weird
pencil drawing of a worm (sorry Vermishus!) and no bio, and now we've recorded
an EP with them which was released in 2002.
Label everything with lots of contact addresses (email probably the best these
days) - not just your mobile phone number. And if you call us to check whether
we got your demo or not, don't be offended if we don't call back. We're just
too busy! We promise that we will get around to listening to your cd eventually.
Writing a date on your covering letter or bio is a good idea, too.
It's better to record and mix your two strongest songs really well, than a
whole half-baked album of every song you've ever written. Often, we just listen
to the first three songs of a cd, so if you're sending us a full-length cd,
and your three favourite songs are scattered throughout it, it's a good idea
to direct our attention to them.
All demos are forwarded to National Film And Sound Archives, an arrangement made between
our national sound archive and Half A Cow, where they will be preserved for
future generations! When your ancestors want to hear Great-grandma Jody rocking
out in her band, The Givegoods, back in the 21st century, they'll be able to
access the songs, photos, bio etc. and even take a copy back to their sleep-capsule.
And remember that it's important to support your industry at every opportunity.
Buy cds (preferably local ones) for every Christmas and birthday present. If
you want people to buy your cd, then set a good example by buying theirs!
Send your demo to Half A Cow Records c/ Sophie Hennessy PO Box 1100 Strawberry Hills NSW
AUSTRALIAN BANDS ONLY: You should also send your future recordings (or tell your record label) to:
National Film And Sound Archives, Australian Music Project, PO Box 2002, Canberra ACT 2601
ph: 02 6248 2034 fax: 02 6248 2167
email: firstname.lastname@example.org National Film And Sound Archives