Sunday, March 29, 2009

the softies

I am gazing out my bedroom window, with the late afternoon blue sky peeking through the speckled leaves of the big tree next door and The Softies playing from my computer, and I am thinking, "Can things be any prettier than this?" The answer is, well, no doubt, but this sure comes close.

This afternoon I picked up their self-titled second album, released on Slumberland in 1996, from Dixon's on Brunswick Street - a man was in there selling it, and I bought it directly from him. A winning trade - he has the 10" at home, and I didn't have it at all. Being in such a good mood today, the sweet sweet harmonies of beautiful Rose Melberg and Jen Sbragia complement my late afternoon peacefulness so well.

Generally, I'm not too much of a fan of girls with acoustic guitars and little else. But The Softies? Their songs are so delicate, the lyrics full of wistful imagery, the harmonies so pretty and, well, soft. I want to wrap myself in these songs on a cold winter's day, and I want to take them to the park when the sun is out and let the sunshine brighten the songs even more. Rose Melberg is one of my musical idols, and these songs illustrate her songwriting craft so well. Just magical.

My favourite Softies track of all is 'The Best Days'. Released as a 7" on K Records, it's one of the most magical songs about love and friendship I know. The lyrics are 24-carat-gold special - "You hid your smile with one hand, and with the other you held mine." My heart melts at the mere thought of this, and reaffirms my love of the world. How many songs do you know that you want to cherish and hold close like that?

Buy yourself some Softies magic over at K Records.

4 bonjour's parties

On Friday night, my friend Andy invited me to see Robyn Hitchcock & The Venus 3. Even though I've never listened to The Soft Boys or his solo work, I still enjoyed the show, particularly his very British stage banter between songs ("the colour would be...invisible").

Whilst waiting for his set to begin, I was introduced to all manner of Japanese pop groups via videos on a mobile phone. Watching the Japanese equivalent of Kylie Minogue, Shiina Ringo, dressed in a nurse uniform, singing through a loudspeaker, amongst other videos, certainly made for a novel experience. It then made me think about other Japanese bands I like. It shamed me that I came up with a list of less than five Japanese bands I've really listened to, when there must be a huge number out there waiting for me to discover.

On my quest to hear more, I came across 4 Bonjour's Parties, a Tokyo collective who recently visited these shores supporting Her Space Holiday. It's a shame I didn't get to see them (they didn't make it to Brisbane, grrrr), because their sweeping melodies and shy vocals, with brass rising in the background, would have won me in an instant. I'm particularly sold on the song 'Satellite', which reminds me of the opening track to The Bank Holidays' album As A Film from last year, except with cute boy Japanese vocals instead of cute West Australian girl vocals. As the song soars along, it moves into a territory that fellow West Australian group Institut Polaire have now mastered so well. Perhaps 4 Bonjour's Parties have some special kinship with Western Australia? Hmmm.

It's no wonder, too, that 4 Bonjour's Parties are friends with The Motifs and have a release through the same record label, Lost In Found - both have a wonderful winsome charm that calls you back for more and more. In fact, in listening to some of the songs by the band Lost In Found itself on their myspace page, I think I may have found another band to fall for. With $650 return flights to Japan on offer at the moment, perhaps this is a portent for a new love affair with Japan.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

melbourne outing #1: dick diver

So far, in this first week of mine in Melbourne, I've ventured out to two shows, one of which was a Wednesday night residency at the Tote in Collingwood by Dick Diver. Throughout March, these three boys (two of whom are called Al) and a girl have held a Wednesday night residency, and it's a shame I've only been able to go along now. I caught this week's show, where they played with the gorgeous Motifs, amongst others. Having never heard of them previously, I had no expectations, but really quite enjoyed their laidback, college radio indie, Malkmus fringes and all. There's a certain New Zealand sound in there, too, adding that glimmering golden tinge to the frayed edge of their sound. Plus, their drummer Steph hits the skins like only the best girl drummers can, injecting additional emotion and rhythm into what may have become an overtly boyish sound. Sadly, I'll be in Sydney for the final night of their residency, but I'll make sure to see them at some of their upcoming shows.

in melbourne

It's been less than a week, but I am now almost settled into my new surrounds in Melbourne. The sun is shining, dogs are running freely around the nearby gardens with their owners, and I'm walking and driving around, learning my way around this new city which will now be my home for...I'm not sure how long.

The great novelty of my move from Brisbane to Melbourne? I can see bands almost every night of the week! Not just that, but I can have my pick of shows to attend, spread across various parts of the city, and invariably see something that piques my attention or makes me fall in love. AND, if they're in my local area, I can walk to the venue! I'm in a town where the wonderful Motifs play regularly (make sure you see them on their upcoming European adventure) and where pop bands may just come creeping out of the woodwork. A town where record stores hold Laughing Apple 7"s to tempt me and shoe shops scream out for my cash for pretty brogues and boots. Sigh. There's been some hiccups, but it will smooth itself out.

Ah, Melbourne. My heart still lies firmly in Brisbane, but Melbourne, you can show me a good time for now.

Monday, March 9, 2009

new ISY!

Yay, there's a new I Smiled Yesterday podcast to listen to over at Slumberland! Go go go go listen! I'll be listening to this as I fly to Sydney this morning for work - it'll make the hour and a half flight pass by all the more easily.

(Brief update: I am in the middle of relocating to Melbourne, and it's stressing me beyond belief. Expect erratic posting for the next wee while, then a whole lot of posting about how much fun my new city is. Argh!)