2013 Grammys Recap – Channel [V] Online

Originally posted on the [V] Music website

The 55th Annual Grammy Awards were held Sunday night in LA and continuing last year’s tradition (where Pommy soul songstress Adele went home with a bazillion awards) suffered a largely international invasion with Brits Mumford & Sons taking out the top gong Album of the Year and our very own Wally De Backer (aka Gotye) sweeping all nominated awards with his now ancient hit ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’. Congratulations America, way to celebrate 2011’s song of the year in 2013!

Featuring performances from such heavyweights of the musical world as Taylor Swift (freaky acid-trip circus theme), Frank Ocean (slow-motion, mustard-suit, desert-jog) and Fun. (one word: moist), the ceremony was hosted by obsessively social-media savvy, hip-hop artist LL Cool J #WeGetIt #YouUnderstandTheInternet #Congrats.

In order to run you through all the Grammys highlights I’ve decided to award my own trophies, voted by an industry committee of me. I give you The 2013 Feltchy Awards (working title):

Most Deserving Award-Winner – Frank Ocean
Although I am hesitant to not give this award to your boy and mine Gotye, who, let’s face it, deserves the hell out of Record of the Year with his ultimate earworm of a song which conquered the world over the past 18 months but seeing Frank Ocean win two Grammys was seriously awesome. The R&B singer took home Best Urban Contemporary Album for his critically adored debut Channel Orange and Best Rap/Urban for his collab with Jay-Z and Kanye ‘No Church in the Wild’. His unique style which stretches the boundaries of the genre and courageous opening-up of his private life makes Ocean an impressive new artist worthy of praise.

Most Shown Celebrity in the Audience – Taylor Swift
Okay, so the cameramen at the Grammys all must have serious boners for Taylor Swift. I swear the feed cut to her and her awkward-white-girl dancing at every possible opportunity. Like any early-20s chick at a party, Swifty gawkily swang her arms and mouthed along to the words she knew during every song and thanks to a team of videographers who are obviously lining up to join her infamous ex-boyfriend brigade, we got to witness it all too often.

Most Awkward Presenter Moment – Ellen Degeneres and Beyonce Knowles
Although Beyonce is unquestionably the reigning Queen of Pop following her stunning Super Bowl half-time performance last week, she isn’t, however, the Queen of the Teleprompter, with her awkward, stilted reading of the script barely saved by the charm of her oddly chosen presenter-pal Ellen Degeneres. Stick to winning music awards Bey, not presenting them.

Worst Person Ever, Like OMG For Realz Now – Chris Brown
Seriously Chris Brown? Seriously? For once in your miserable excuse for a life could you try and do something that doesn’t make us all despise you. The Rihanna-beating, Frank Ocean-punching walking venereal disease was nominated for Best Urban Contemporary and on losing to his car-park-battle-opponent, Frank, chose to stay stubbornly seated while the rest of the auditorium gave a standing ovation. REAL MATURE, MATE. Chris Brown takes out this award, once again, and forever.

Weirdest Performance Pairing – Ed Sheeran and Elton John
Inspiring weird-looking rangas the world over, UK wonderboy Ed Sheeran was paired with Elton John/his future self for a duet of Sheeran’s tween-favourite ‘The A Team’. To say it was weird is an understatement, with the two incredibly different vocals not really suiting the style of the song and clashing horribly. File in: No. Just… No.

Best Dressed – J-Lo/Katy Perry
There are two winners in this category, which is going to diverge depending on your sexual orientation. The ladyfriend that was my Grammy viewing buddy grants this award to Jennifer Lopez, who she described as “the epitome of style; seductive, sleek, minimal” but personally I’m giving it to Katy Perry because “BEWBS”. I’ll let you decide which is the ultimate victor. But seriously… bewbs.

And some quick Feltchy Awards:

Best Live Performance: Rihanna, Sting and Bruno Mars getting into the reggae with their tribute to Bob Marley.

Award for Bringing Sexy Back Back: Justin Timberlake

Award for Uhhh Who The F**K Is That?: Every Country Musician

Best Use of Their Grandmas Couch as a Dress: Adele

Overall this year’s Grammy Awards felt like a fairly tame affair. Many artists who performed on the night chose softer songs from their repertoire and the whole evening lacked any impressive glitzy showcases like those given to us in previous years by the likes of Gaga, P!nk and Kanye West, whilst LL Cool J continues to be a bland host more intent on reading dull tweets from his iPhone then entertaining. Jack White and Justin Timberlake (in Instagram-vision nonetheless) brought the tone up slightly but the event is certainly missing a few fireworks. I think the producers need to grow some balls and take some risks next year to ensure the Grammys really do achieve the status of the music industry’s “night of nights” (ugh, vomit).

Gig Review: Sleigh Bells – Channel [V] Online

Originally posted on [V] Music website.

Venue: Metro Theatre, Sydney
Date: Jan 19, 2013

For those that survived what is now officially known as Sydney’s “Hottest Day Like Ever You Guys OMG” last Friday, the following evening at the Metro Theatre offered up an alternate way to melt one’s face off with Brooklyn-based noise-pop duo Sleigh Bells bringing a veritable heatwave of their own. Replacing hot air systems with heavy guitar riffs and scorching UV rays with shrieking serenades, the end result was much similar: a whole mess of people reduced to sweaty, soggy puddles that once resembled human beings.

Brissie lads DZ Deathrays opened the proceedings (for this fashionably late attendee anyway) with a tight, energetic set unfortunately only witnessed by a small, mostly stationary crowd. Off the back of their ARIA win last year, the boys impressed with their technical skills, busting out their brand of thrash/punk rock with a certain expertise and vigour but not even popular single ‘No Sleep’ was enough to stir some punters awake. It seemed most were saving energy for the main act and rightly so as that familiar “I’m in an oven” sensation was already in place when the lights finally dimmed and Sleigh Bells took the stage.

Seeing Sleigh Bells live isn’t an experience for the faint-hearted. From the opening explosion of heavy-guitar and synth sounds to the very final scream of frontwoman Alexis Strauss, Sleigh Bells create a soundscape that continuously hits you hard and doesn’t let up its aural assault for 70 minutes. The constant thump of bass challenged not only my body (seriously my internal organs were all like, “Hey man WTF is going on out there?” and I’m all like, “Shut up pancreas you’re not the boss of me”) but also the very integrity of The Metro’s foundations, at times I feared Sleigh Bells would be the last thing I ever heard as I was crushed to death beneath an electro-pop induced cave-in.

The key to Sleigh Bells unique sound has always been the marrying of these dense, violent guitar riffs and deep synths with the startlingly talented vocal work of Alexis, at times sweet and angelic, at other times raw and brutal. Alexis really is the life and soul of the band, she completely owned the stage for the duration with seemingly no part of the Metro off limits. She flailed, rolled, leaped and surfed with a relentless, intensely chaotic energy all the while belting out a bewildering vocal array. Seriously someone should attach a generator to this walking energy drink of a woman; it could probably power a small town (okay, like really small, like Centre for Ants small). It was a slight shame, however, that the other 50 per cent of Sleigh Bells wasn’t really given his moment to shine, with Derek Miller mainly kept to a silhouette despite several blood-curdling guitar solos where he could’ve taken the limelight.

You’ll find it hard to find a Sleigh Bells song that is longer than four minutes, which is highly appropriate for the short-attention span of the Gen Y audience and also allowed for them to get through almost their entire catalogue. The 16 songs executed were taken equally from their 2010 breakthrough album Treats and their slightly darker sophomore Reign of Terror from last year, although the biggest crowd reaction came during the older material with ‘Tell ‘Em’ and ‘Riot Rhythm’ both causing mass shit-losing from the punters.

My highlight would have to be the stripped-back opening to ‘Born to Lose’ where Alexis’s voice really took control of the room. The saintly vocal work over an unprecedented gentle guitar was however short-lived when 30 seconds in the band unleashed a heart-stopping wave of bass and synth that knocked you upside the face like a turkey slap from God and rendered anyone older than 50 in the room immediately dead (just jokes there was no one there that old… at least I hope not, otherwise RIP).

A failed stage dive, a technical issue saved by the witty banter of Alexis and a four-song encore later and we emerged from the Metro sweaty, sore and with 70 per cent less hearing ability. If what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger then I should probably thank Sleigh Bells for the epic workout I received simply listening to their live show. That’s definitely my kind of gym.

Mitch Feltscheer – @mitchfel

Set List:
1. Demons
2. Crown on the Ground
3. True Shred Guitar
4. Kids
5. End of the Line
6. Born to Lose
7. Comeback Kid
8. Straight A’s
9. Leader of The Pack
10. Tell ‘Em
11. Treats
12. Infinity Guitars

Encore:
13. Rill Rill
14. Never Say Die
15. Riot Rhythm
16. A/B Machines

Discovery of the Week – Night Engine

Hey remember that thing where I do a write up of a new musical discovery and post it online once a week? Remember how strictly I adhered to that commitment? Hahaha me to! It’s fun to remember things. Well whilst consistency goes and fucks itself, I’m back with a new band, a not-so-new sound and the familiar locale of the UK indie-rock scene (Stop it with the awesome indie music UK just stop it!).

The online buzz for UK art-pop outfit Night Engine (both NME and the Guardian have touted them as ones to watch in 2013) is fairly ridiculous considering the group currently have more band members then songs. A single listen through of the three songs they have available on their SoundCloud though and the anticipation surrounding the London boys is more than vindicated.

Listening to Night Engine with their tight, funky guitar riffs and the Bowie-esque vocals of frontman Phil you’d be forgiven for thinking you had travelled back to the early 80’s and were in fact rocking out to Talking Heads (in which case WHAT ARE YOU DOING? Go out and save John Lennon or something jerk!) Regardless of the brazen throwback style of their music, it’s a sound which feels very much like a breath of fun-air and a break from the more reserved fare the indie/alt music scene has been pumping out lately. Personally I’d much rather bounce around a smelly, sweaty room to these guys then sway gently to Alt-J’s latest droning single.

With a full length record out later in the year Night Engine are destined to fill my shamelessly-fun band of 2013. It’s nothing new, in fact it’s decidedly old, but it’s boisterous and enjoyable as shit and in a year where Jareth himself is to make a comeback, Night Engine could very well find a substantial audience ready to throw themselves around to upbeat, funky rock.

https://soundcloud.com/nightengine/treat-me-like-a-baby

Discovery of the Week – BLONDS

Whereas last week’s DotW began on a meditation of the current trends circling the musical world, this week we deal with a band which evokes the ambience of times long past whilst still being very much a reflection of certain contemporary sounds.

BLONDS are the combined forces of Cari Rae and Jordy Asher who utilise their own romance as a mine for exploring dark themes of love and longing through the novel combining of a whole cavalcade of sounds from the past and present. Grabbing from such wide-spread genres as Motown, psychedelia , 50’s Rock ‘n’ Roll and blues the duo have generated a collection of tracks that is difficult to temporally pin down. Lana Del Ray could (read: should) learn a lesson or two on how to do nostalgia from BLONDS, as the end result of this combining of a centuries worth of guitar pop and rock is a glimmering, macabre success.

Debut album ‘The Bad Ones’ contrastingly has both tunes that feel right at home, with lead single ‘Time’ sitting easily within the current frame of indie-pop,  and at the other end of the spectrum songs like ‘Mr. E’ which feels as if taken directly from a 60’s Bond movie in both title and sound. ‘Magic’ has the almost cutesy male and female back and forth you hear every day on the radio courtesy of bands such as San Cisco whilst ‘Run’ wouldn’t be out-of-place in a black and white noir. A lot of the tunes are in fact very cinematic with some seductive and at times melodramatic vocals reminiscent of a silver-screen vixen from a Billy Wilder film.

This triumphant melding of old and new is at the core of what is a fairly dark -themed album but the sometimes sombre subject matter such as in ‘Falling’ (“fear is a crippling thing/stop the sirens waltzing/wave goodbye to the dark ocean floor”) is well balanced with twangy guitar and electronic sounds which often elevate it into a dream pop vibe evocative of Beach House.

Whereas Ms. Ray ends up sounding like a drawling imitation of a vintage cliché, BLONDS flourish in utilising Americana pop of yore, marrying it with the new and creating a totally unique sound which is at once both captivating and transitory.

http://soundcloud.com/blondstheband/run

Colestopia – Nuclear Afterlife

The brown, decaying grass crunches under her feet as she comes to a stop and surveys her surroundings. The once verdant countryside, impregnated with fruit-heavy vines and the gentle sound of the cattle from the neighbouring valley are nought but faint memories as her eyes take in the utterly desolate, despoiled land reaching to the horizon. Her mind briefly lingers on the burnt-out husk of a city that lay just beyond the hills and all the extinct cities beyond that one, but she pushes it from her thoughts. The past cannot be changed.

Crouching momentarily she feels the weight of her harrowing situation. Alone. Perhaps utterly and completely alone. The last member of the human race. As it always does the thought sends an icy chill through her heart. Tensing rigidly, she bursts forwards and begins to run.

Running was all she had left from her old life. She was in control of the moment when she was running, her body moving as it was prompted, crossing space, making a path of her own choosing. The decrepit farm blurs as she kicks into high gear, sprinting for her life, her future, her self.

After minutes she stops and hunching forward gulps in air, her heart racing. Yes, she was still alive. Good.

Suddenly the hairs on the back of neck prickle and she senses something in front of her. Abruptly standing up she takes in the figure that has materialised. A women stands casually about a metre away. Dressed in a white tracksuit and with brown shoulder-length hair, the indigenous woman stares at her, studying her. Slowly a smile breaches her face and is momentarily joined by the girls own beaming grin.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do, Sarah” says Cathy Freeman

Visual Aid: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBIItwPfl60

Discovery of the Week – Foxes

(Ha look at me with my ‘of the Week’ title there, cute. If I actually come through with a write-up of a newly found band every week I’ll be so surprised with my diligence I’ll poop myself)

It’s interesting that at a given period of time in the realm of music, certain countries seem to produce artists all killing it in one specific genre. Think of Canada and it’s current trend of distorted, electronic sounds courtesy of Grimes and Purity Ring or France’s endless stream of dance-pop producers and DJ’s currently triumphed by Yuksek.

The UK’s sound export seems to be slightly more difficult to pin down with it at times alternating between the indie jams highlighted by Two Door Cinema Club and Foals and the (faux) folk of Mumford and Sons and to a degree Laura Marling. One mainstay in the music springing from the ‘Isles of Wonder’ however is the strong-female-led anthemic pop where Florence and Marina are king (queen).

It’s this latter category that new-comer Louise Rose Allen, a 21-year old Londoner who releases music under the moniker ‘Foxes’ would be initially bundled into, but her unique voice and sound indicate a slightly different approach to what some would say is a bloated genre.

Hovering somewhere under the all out belting of Florence and above the often cutesy styling of Ellie Goulding, Foxes voice is completely at home on top of the more electronic-inspired sounds such as found in single ‘White Coats’. Sure the slow build and aural, echoey backing vocals aren’t anything new but the heavier presence of drums, synth and refusing to push the chorus into ‘epic’ realms by burying it under theatrical production and overt belting separates Foxes from other bellowy female voiced pop.

This is Foxes, not Foxes and the Diamond Machine.

With only an EP out last month Foxes is still finding her feet but if she continues to stay on her current path utilising electronic percussion and heavier synths whilst not bursting vocal chords she may very well breathe some much-needed new life into a usually predictable genre.

http://soundcloud.com/iamfoxes/warrior-1

An open letter to an old ‘friend’

Dear guy I roomed with for 5 months on exchange in Canada,

Hey dude! How the hell are ya? It’s been way too long between drinks, especially considering we never really drank together at all when we lived under the same roof in Canada and that was three years ago now!

How’s life in England? (How about them Olympics hey, wowser, talk about an international sporting event!) Even though I have maintained absolutely zero contact with you since Canada I am almost certain that you are still in England and have not re-located elsewhere. I base this on your flagrant and outright aversion to every aspect of your stint living abroad in Canada, with the burning, constant regret you felt everyday about going on exchange as apparent and odious to me as your post-curry excretions (what was up with your penchant for curry 4-5 times a week by the way?)

You know I always wondered WHY exactly you committed to 5 months in a distant foreign land, despite must of having at least the smallest inkling that a quiet, introverted, gaming enthusiast like yourself may not exactly flourish on international student exchange. I eventually assumed you left your stately manor in Upper Chestingtoncester-Upon-Glade where you no doubt spent your affluent childhood because your parents must have forced you against your own wishes and against your strongly held fear for the outside world and disdain for the unwholesome commoners that inhabited it. Oh that first moment when you realised you were rooming with a 19 year old middle-class Australian recently out of puberty must have been fun for you!

You may have noticed by this far into my letter the fact that I have not once referred to you by name. This is due to the unfortunate state where in the past three years your existence in my memory has dribbled down to such a minor extent I have entirely forgotten your name. I do know I did what is common with us uncouth convicts and gave you a nickname you hated, which was no doubt your actual name shortened and suffixed instead with ‘y’ or ‘azza’. I think perhaps your name is James and I would refer to you as Jimmy, or Daniel and I called you Dazza or maybe Rutherford and I called you Rusty. I hope it was that last one, although I think if I had imbued you with such a killer nickname as Rusty I wouldn’t be having this issue re-calling it.

Anyway Rusty, it’s a shame we lost contact. It’s a shame we never really got along.  It’s a shame you even came to Canada and it’s a horrible shame you were paired with me in 34B Frontenac House. Now I’m not trying to be cruel here Jimbo I mean looking back now, it did kinda suck for the both of us. Our personalities and lifestyles never really clicked and a mid-semester room swap was never going to happen what with you being too proper to initiate and me not really giving that much of a fuck as long as you continued to keep to your bedroom and not complain when you would have to roll over my naked unconscious body on the kitchen floor in order to open the fridge in the morning (read: most mornings).

So listen Dazzdogs I’d like to take this opportunity to make some formal apologies. I’m sorry about the constant room parties. I’m sorry about the relentless security and campus police visits. I’m sorry about the hot-box in our bathroom that set off the fire alarm in our building at 3am on a Tuesday. I’m sorry about that time I thought your bedroom was mine and proceeded to vomit on your laptop bag and attempt to spoon you. I’m sorry about making you pull out the skin staples on my not-nearly-healed enough head wound with a fork because “the medical building was like, on the other side of campus”.

But you know Rusto, you really could have dug down, found some hidden reserves of this thing called ‘fun’ and gainfully joined in on all these activities instead of sitting on the sideline and silently growing resentful towards me (except the spooning incident I’m glad you didn’t ‘get involved’ in that situation). Going on semester exchange isn’t about experiencing new culture and growing as an intelligent individual in a global world or any of that bullshit. It’s about getting super tanked on beers with funny names (hahaha Kokanee), experiencing as many new foreign genitals as possible and attending exactly the bare minimum amount of classes to avoid failure (‘attending’ and ‘being unconscious in’ are interchangeable here).

If you remember Gazzatron, I did attempt to take you out a couple of times in the first few weeks with the other international kids and you sat on the side, quietly sipping your single beer before disappearing home sometime between me doing a body shot off that chubby Irish girl and getting kicked out for demanding the bartender say ‘about’ over and over. So don’t say I didn’t try to get you instigated into the world of debauchery and complete lack of academic awareness that is the fundamental ideology of international exchange.

Anyway old mate, we’ll let the past be the past. I hope these three years have found you personal growth, new wisdom or at the very least that 100% completion on Batman: Arkham Asylum you so desperately pursued whilst we lived together on college campus in a new and exciting country during the prime of our youth. I also hope you haven’t been carving my likeness into little wooden dolls and torturing/burning them whilst thinking of increasingly painful ways to reap your overdue revenge.

And seriously dude, pull back on the curry dinners.

Regards,

Your ex-roommate/arch-nemesis,

Mitch