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So happy I just heard: Ben Howard

The music blogging gig is a weird thing… you can go months without hearing anything that inspires you, and then all of a sudden a whole host of tunes reach out and smack you across the face in a course of a week.
This has been one of those weeks.

Today, following a link posted in Jason Mraz’s twitter account (not actually run by Jason, but you know what I mean), I headed across to listen to some of Ben Howard‘s tunes… and immediately spent 20 minutes clicking “play”, again and again.

Ben hails from Devon, in the United Kingdom, and considering his style of playing and musical influences (John Martyn, Jeff Buckley, Joni Mitchell, Ray Lamontagne, Damien Rice, Jose Gonsalez, Bon Iver), I was surprised I hadn’t stumbled across his stuff before… as really, that sounds like a typical afternoon on my iPod.

Ben has that percussive style of guitar playing that’s seen in some of my favourite guitarists mentioned on here before, such as Andy McKee, Guy Buttery, Xavier Rudd and Kaki King. After a bit of surfing, I came across a video – which I’ve embedded below – of Ben playing a live set featuring the song, “Empty Corridors”, that is simply amazing…


Quite frankly, I’m putting Ben Howard on my “Surely Going To Make It” list. And that brings me to the real reason for this post: I’m sending you towards his myspace page to listen to the opening track there, entitled “The Wolves”. If “The Wolves” isn’t enough to convince you of this kid’s future, then I’m not sure what will. From that opening “Ooooh”, it’s sheer perfection.

Listen. Love. Support.

2008 releases artists digital downloads guitar

Juzzie Smith – Travelling

Juzzie Smith – The One Man Band that will blow you away

Juzzie Smith is one of those happy coincidental discoveries. It just so happened that, while my mother was out in Australia visiting us on holiday, we took her up the Sunshine Coast for the weekend. While up there, we decided to take a trip to the Eumundi Markets, which always has some interesting stalls up.

Of course, it took me all of two minutes to grow tired of shopping, so I went off for a wander around the food stalls, as I am wont to do. (What, I was hungry and the German Kransky Sausages smell was calling to me, ok? Never mind that I’m still nursing a burn on my tongue from the hot, but oh-so-delicious cheese. Ahem… back on track)

So while I was wandering around, nursing an inflamed tongue, I heard the unmistakable sounds of a one-man-band playing. A lap slide guitar, some mean harp… I was instantly pulled towards the sounds. And what I found, when I reached the source, was one-man-band and one-man-smiling-machine, Juzzie Smith.

Juzzie is the quintessential busker. Talking to the crowd, he explained that this was his life: travelling the world with his wife and daughter, performing his music live for whoever will listen to it, and flogging his recordings when he can. Ultimately, Juzzie lives the romantic notion of the travelling musician that others of us only dream of. Not only did Juzzie rekindle that fire in my belly of what music can do with his tales, but his music itself was a sheer primal force.

Needless to say, I bought two of his CDs right there and then.

There is one, slight, downer here though. I have to say that Juzzie live simply does not come across in Juzzie recorded. I’m not sure what it is, maybe that grit that comes from hearing someone perform on the sidewalk is washed away in a steril studio… but while the recordings are great, they don’t quite stand up to Juzzie Smith live.

I’m not sure anything ever will.

That said, here’s a tune from Juzzie’s “happy Daze” release, called… you guessed it, “Travelling”.

Listen. Love. Support.

Listen: Juzzie Smith – Travelling

2008 releases artists digital downloads guitar music

Donerail – Some Ending

Donerail (Image Credit: Trask Bedortha)

Donerail (pronounced Dawn-er-rale) are a Portland band that make me smile. Much like a past Burgoblog favourite, High On Stress, Donerail play that kind of Replacements-like rock ‘n roll that never fails to bring a smile to my face.

Donerail’s latest album, “Destiny and Dishonor“, was recorded live over the course of three days, and is where below track, “Some Ending” can be found. There’s something about the album that just sounds… legitimate. I know that’s a strange description, but the fact of the matter is that quite a few bands try to sound like Paul Westerberg/Uncle Tupelo… but they’re trying to emulate them because they think it’s hip. Something sounds different about these guys, Donerail. They aren’t trying to sound like Westerberg or Farrar because it’s “cool”… they play this music because it really is them. I guess what I’m trying to say is… they sound real.

Listening to some of their past material, it sounds to me like the band is still growing; there’s a gigantic leap between Destiny and Dishonor and their past stuff… so I can’t wait to see where this band goes in the future.

Listen. Love. Support.

Listen: Donerail – Some Ending

2008 releases artists music music videos

Lowry – Whiskey (Video)

I was thrilled to receive an email yesterday from Leah at Engine Room Recordings letting me know that Lowry (who I featured back here) have just released their new music video for their tune, “Whiskey”. Not only do I love the track itself, but I was also fascinated by the story behind the video: Lowry teamed up with $99 Music Video, a “new online TV network dedicated to emerging bands and filmmakers who work together to create high-quality original music videos for budgets of $99 or less.

I’d say Lowry definitely got their $99 worth… check out the video below.

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Ari Hest – Twelve Mondays

The other day I got that kind of email that music bloggers love to get… an email from an artist’s management saying, “Hey… you know, I’ve noticed from your blog posts that you like xyz… and I think you might like some of my client’s stuff. Want to check it out?”… and you actually do love the client’s stuff.

(Side note: to management… if you’re going to approach music bloggers, make sure that you’ve actually read the damn blog. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve got emails about artists I’ve already posted about, or one that even said “Hey, I sound like Howie Day. You probably won’t know his stuff, here’s a link”… Srsly? Ahem. Rant over)

The point is, that in this case the email came from Shannon over at Brick Wall Management… and not only did she do everything right, but the client she thought I might like was Ari Hest. This is the kind of email I love getting. Where management has actually got my tastes damn spot on.

Um. Ari freakin’ Hest? Only someone I’ve been a fan of for ages… around 6 years or so, I would say, ever since I first heard “Aberdeen” from “Come Home” way back in the day. So of course, I was thrilled when Shannon told me that Ari’s just dropped a new album, entitled “Twelve Mondays”.

After listening to the album for about an hour, I twittered:
“Just been sent the new ari hest album to review. there’s a song on here that’s possibly the best thing he’s ever done, in my opinion.”

Yeah. It’s that kind of album.

Official music video for “Dead End Driving”, from the new Ari Hest album, “Twelve Mondays”

First off, some more background on “Twelve Mondays”:
Back in 2008, Ari started out a trailblazing experiment called “52“. Basically, what “52” entailed was recording (and releasing) a new song every week. Fans then voted on their favourite tracks, and twelve of those were collected into the album, “Twelve Mondays”.

That such an album could have come out of “a song a week” project is, quite simply, astounding, and only hints at Ari’s songwriting prowess.

Oh… and the best thing Ari’s written? Well, the whole point of the “52” project was that different songs would appeal to different people. So you should probably head here to purchase the entire album to decide for yourself.

For my money though, “The Weight” will go down as an all-time Ari Hest classic.

Listen. Love. Support.

Listen: Ari Hest – The Weight

2008 releases artists digital downloads guitar music

Lowry – Love Is Dead

So, apologies for the decline in posts around these parts lately. It’s been a hectic few months. Actually, scratch that… it’s been a hectic year, and posting sometimes fell by the wayside. So you know it had to be something special to bring me out of that unintentional hiatus, right?

Well, it is. Something special, I mean. Thanks first go to Melissa from EngineRoom Recordings, for sending me a whole bundle of goodness. I’m still working through the albums she sent, but the first one I popped in, Lowry’s “Love Is Dead” album is, quite simply, gorgeous.


Lowry apparently originally started as a band going after an experimental Americana sound, but then evolved into a “cinematic form” of rock music. Well, that’s what the press release says. But, really, what does that mean, in the end? It means that Lowry are one of those bands that music bloggers love to hear, but hate to write about… because they encompass so much in their music. There’s a bit of pop in there, a bit of indie (with some hints of Phoenix here and there… don’t ask me why, but something about it reminds me of those times), a bit of electro, and the aforementioned Americana. The music is a landscape that is constantly shifting and flowing.

The end result is a CD that I’ve been spinning pretty much non stop this past week. While the album is pretty much strong all the way through, right off the bat from opener “Whiskey”, it’s with songs like “Wicked Witch Of Bushwick” and the close-on-eight-minute track, “Down”, with that simply heart-breaking outro, that Lowry seem to be at their best. There’s a fragility there that, at times, recalls Elliot Smith’s whispered dulcet tones.

Yeah. In other words, it’s a good thing.

Anyway, I’ve included two tracks below as a taster. If you like what you hear, then visit their Myspace page to keep updated on any upcoming shows.

Listen. Love. Support.

Listen: Lowry – Whiskey
Listen: Lowry – Down

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Coldplay, live at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre

On Sunday night, I was lucky enough to see “superband”, Coldplay, perform live at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre.

Now, I’m going to throw this right out there. Even when uber-popular music blogs like Stereogum feature bands like Coldplay, there always seems to be a massive backlash from the “Hipster Runoff” type kids. The ones who don’t think it’s cool to like a mainstream band like Coldplay. To any of you reading this who might be feeling the same way…

Wake Up.

Coldplay performing live was one of the most amazing gigs I’ve been to. Sure, it may not have the intimacy factor that a gig with Bon Iver might have, but Coldplay know how to bring the raw entertainment factor like no other band. The sheer spectacle of seeing their stage set up, the stadium fist pumping stage sprinting… man, it’s hard to beat.

Coldplay performing “Yellow” live at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre. The videos included in this blog entry weren’t taken by yours truly, as he didn’t take a camera with him… so thanks to whoever took the two clips embedded here. Watch out for Chris popping one of the yellow balloons with this guitar.

The band themselves were in fine spirits, and really had the crowd eating out of the palm of their hand. Much as I wrote back when featuring their live set from the Brixton Academy, Coldplay instill this sense of playfulness to their live shows that somehow manages to deconstruct that image of them being this untouchable stadium band.

In fact, in one of the (many) highlights of the night, the band marched off stage and climbed high into the audience, to a small rafter set up that barely had space for all four of them to stand comfortably. From here they performed the Will Champion led, “Death Will Never Conquer”, and “I’m A Believer”. As Chris Martin said:

“What we’re doing here is breaking down that… that suspension of disbelief that happens with the band being so far away. We want you to see that we’re here too… spots and wrinkles and all. Deep down, beyond all of this, this is what we are a heart: a pub band”

It was a great statement from a band who obviously realises exactly what they’ve become; a band so huge, so massive that they’ve almost become a myth. While that was always inevitable, they’ve retained their roots in a manner that other bands would be hard pressed to do.

Coldplay performing “Fix It”, live at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre. Thanks again to the taper. Chris changed up the lyrics to “”When you’re high up above or down below, when you’re sitting miles away from the band at a Coldplay show” as a nod to those of us who had to sit miles from the band. After that, it felt like they were sitting right in front of you.

Unfortunately I didn’t manage to take a camera, so I don’t have any shots of the night, and I didn’t take any notes, so I can’t give a song by song review. It wasn’t that type of gig. It was a gig where you simply had to sit back and marvel at the splendour of the night. That said, here’s a set list of their show, for those who are interested:

Coldplay, live at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre, 8 March 2009 Setlist

Life In Technicolor
Violet Hill
In My Place
Yellow / You’re The Voice (John Farnham cover)
Glass Of Water
Cemeteries Of London
Fix You
Strawberry Swing
God Put A Smile Upon Your Face (techno version)
Talk (techno version)
The Hardest Part (Chris piano, Will)
Postcards From Far Away (piano instrumental)
Viva La Vida
Green Eyes (acoustic)
I’m A Believer (acoustic)
Death Will Never Conquer (acoustic – Will vocals)
Viva La Vida (remix interlude)
Lovers In Japan
Death And All His Friends
The Scientist
Life in Technicolor ii
The Escapist (outro)

All I can say, after that night?

Freaking Awesome. Thanks, Coldplay boys, for giving us a night to remember.

2008 releases artists music music videos

Fleet Foxes – Mykonos (Video)

One of my new favourite music videos… the new video for Fleet Foxes’ “Mykonos” is filmed entirely with stop-motion frames… and it’s sheer beauty.

That is all.

Mykonos from Grandchildren on Vimeo.