So, a while back I was contacted by Sabrina Robertson, who sent me an email saying, “Hey, I think you might dig these guys…”.
First off, I can’t tell you how many emails like these I get. I’m not even one of the “big guys” when it comes to music blogging, so I can only imagine how many emails they get… but this one had some personal touches that showed Sabrina had actually bothered to read more than just my “Want your band featured?” page, so when the CD she sent arrived, I popped it on for a listen.
And, thank god, she was right.
Melbourne band “Goodnight Owl” (aka Eddie Alexander, Joe Walker & Bella Walker) write some really great, classic pop/electronica tunes, in the vein of – say, for one example – Postal Service. And that’s high praise from me indeed, considering my love of Postal Service.
The band’s self-titled debut EP was recorded in November 2008, and is a study in contradictions; as I’ve heard Nick Huggins describe it, it’s “a curious mix of confidence and fragility”, and I couldn’t put it better myself.
The 5-song EP itself, for me at least, hints at great things to come for the band. While the album opens with undoubtedly the strongest track, “Maps & Compasses”, it never quite reaches those heights again, although both “She Kept a Secret” and, especially, “Verandah” are absolutely kickass pop tunes. All in all, I get the feeling the band is still growing and finding itself, and considering this is a debut EP, that’s of course only natural.
I’ve included both “Maps & Compasses” and “Verandah” below, as a taster of the band. “Goodnight Owl” is out now, and is available on iTunes, Polyester Records, Readings, and via Paypal on the band’s Myspace.
God, I can’t believe how long it’s been since I went to a gig… I think my last one was Ryan Adams at the beginning of the year, and here we are in November already. The good news is, my lapse in attending gigs was broken by an absolute kicker of a night, watching Pearl Jam, Ben Harper & The Relentless 7 and Liam Finn perform at the QSAC Stadium in Brisbane last night.
To be honest though, although I arrived there in plenty of time, by the time we managed to get to our seats Liam Finn‘s set was all but ending, so I can’t really say too much about that. I will say that what heard of his set was… intriguing to say the least. There was a rawness there that I certainly hadn’t heard in his recorded stuff before, so I think catching a live set of his in the future will be on the cards. It was either a beautiful cacophony, or an awful racket… I didn’t hear enough to make up my mind. Whatever it was, however, it’s definitely interested me in catching him live again.
Following Liam’s set, Ben Harper came on with new(ish) band Relentless 7. I’ve seen Ben Harper live a couple of times before, but this was first time with the Relentless 7. Through no fault of their own – well, largely not their own – I have to say: I was disappointed. It wasn’t the quality of their performance whatsoever that brought a downer on their set, but rather that the sound quality for their set was the most substandard sound setup I have ever been witness to. QSAC Stadium itself is an open-air stadium, which is never easy to get the sound levels right for in itself – what with wind to take into account, etc – but regardless of the situation, I was immensely disappointed in the organisers/sound crew for not having a better go at this one. The result was that in between songs, when Ben was talking, he was all but completely inaudible, which completely ruined the flow of the set. I’m sure that those lucky few who managed to get standing room in the floor section were fine, but for those of us on the side stands, the tech crew totally let us down.
All in all, I don’t think it’s fair for me to write up on Ben’s set all that much, because of the sound problems. I will say that the set disappointed me – particularly, “Diamonds on the Inside” seemed lacklustre – but, again, it’s hard to tell how much of that was a lack of groove within the band itself, or the sound issues. The one high point of the set, for me at least, was actually the opening tune, “I Will Not Be Broken”. Now, I stand to be corrected here, but as far as I am aware, this is a new tune from the band, and one I really, really like. Other standouts were a simply stunning rendition of “Faded”, and a kickass cover of INXS’s “Never Tear Us Apart”.
I managed to get a few sound clips on the night, and I’ve embedded two mp3s from Ben’s set below. Please note, however, that the sound quality of my recorder is point blank terrible… there is distortion galore, levels all out of whack etcx; so I don’t include these as mp3s to listen to again and again, simply for those who are diehard fans and who want to get an idea of what the band sounded like.
Following the Relentless 7, it was of course time for the main act, none other than Pearl Jam. Now, I’m about to commit music blogger heresy and openly state that, while I previously liked Pearl Jam, I’d never really seen the attraction as others have. To be honest, the major drawcard to the gig, for me, was Ben Harper. But, after last night, all that changed. Seeing them live, I finally understood the passion that the band instills in its fans. Point blank, Eddie and Co gave one of the most visceral, energetic and above all, honest performances that I’ve ever seen. And damned if I’m not like a little kid who hears his favourite band for the first time.
The band opened with an incendiary “Why Go”, and things only got better from there. Below, I’ve include a setlist for the night. Now, I had to leave during “Encore 2” due to transport times (which meant I missed “Jeremy”… bugger), so what I have in the setlist there is what I gathered from others at the show; but if anything’s incorrect, feel free to leave a note in the comments and I’ll update the post with correct info.
Pearl Jam Set list, live at QSAC Stadium in Brisbane, 25 November 2009
Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town
In My Tree
Amongst The Waves
Off He Goes
Not For You with Modern Girl snippet
Daughter with Another Brick In the Wall & Schools Out snippets
If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It) (AC/DC cover)
Red Mosquito (with Ben Harper)
Indifference (with Ben Harper)
Gonna See My Friend
Throw Your Arms Around Me (Hunters & Collectors cover) (with Liam Finn)
Baba O’Riley (The Who cover)
Highlights of the set, for me, were a beautiful “Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town“, a haunting “Off He Goes“, and particularly the opening of the first encore, where Eddie came out just with an acoustic guitar, and launched into “The End“, and was progressively joined by the band for “Just Breathe“.
Again, I managed to catch a few clips on my recorder, but, again I must point out that these are more for the diehards to listen to, and that the distortion sucks something awful. But, if you’re after a glimpse of last night, here are a few…
So, if you’ve read my “30 South African Bands you need to hear!” post – and it seems like a lot of you are – you would have noticed my admiration for Durban muso, Dave McMillan. Dave was, quite literally, the reason I picked up a guitar in the first place, and the reason for me seeing the beauty music could bring. Anyway, read that post (muso #5) and catch up on an intro to my story with Dave… but the lowdown is, Dave has been the frontman and contibutor to more bands in Durban than I can count. And he’s a musician that I’ve admired for a long, long time.
Which makes this post all the harder to write. Truth is, Dave has a harder task than any muso I know of impressing me. Point blank, other musicians I might be prepared to look the other way, should they falter. But Dave… well, he doesn’t have that luxury. And I hope he knows that that’s purely because I take his success… well, personal in a way. That probably sounds like a bunch of balls, and I’d be the first to understand if you called me a pretentious wanker for a statement like that, but the Durban music scene was always built on camaraderie. And even though a lot of us moved away, you take that feeling with you.Once a bra, always a bra, and things like that.
So, after that long precursor, I’ll get to the point of the post: Dave McMillan’s new (and debut solo) album, “Trying to find Rewind”. Dave’s released the album for a free download on his site, and you can stream the entire thing on his site; download just a single song or the full album… the choice is up to you. Whatever you do though, whatever my bias towards Dave, I’d encourage you to click through, or listen to the mp3s below of his tunes.
Summed up? It’s good. It’s very, very good. I wouldn’t go so far as to say brilliant; not quite yet, at least. But I definitely believe Dave is well on his way there.
The album meanders slightly in styles, with some songs having a Rodriguez vibe, some a James Taylor vibe, and some a vibe all of Dave’s own (on a side note, I’ve seen a lot of reviewers lately compare his work on this album to John Mayer… I’m sorry, but I think they’re full of it, personally). Personal highlights for me though? “Wake Up”, with a chorus that seems to come out of nowhere; album opener “Big Boys”, with that irrepressible refrain; the simple yet beautiful “The Mourning After”; and personal favourite, “Too Late”, which is simply too perfect for words.
Below, I’ve included some mp3s as tasters from the album, but as I’ve said, I really would encourage you to click on through to Dave’s site and give the whole album a listen. While I don’t think this album will be Dave’s masterpiece, I think it’s a clear indication of the quality of his future. Seeing as I’m hungry, I’ll use a food analogy: this is the most scrumptious entree you’ve ever had… but now your mouth is watering for the main course which you know is going to simply blow you away. And I know that main course is just around the corner for Dave.
As long as Dave is in the South African music scene, SA music is in good hands… I honestly couldn’t think of a better ambassador.