Friday, August 28, 2009

live: the lucksmiths, brisbane, 23/08/09

And so it ends: a chapter of my life that began as a 17 year old living in a horrible outer suburb closes, eight years later, on a balmy Brisbane Sunday night, with The Lucksmiths playing their final show to a sold out northern audience. It was a mixed audience: ardent fans who have been at their shows for years stood alongside emerging faces, a new breed who surely wanted to see this band just once before they never could again. 

When the break-up was announced, I was adamant I was going to see them in Brisbane, and I'm glad I made the whirlwind flight back for that one final night at The Zoo, where I'd seen them play countless times before. Part homecoming, part nostalgia trip, but mostly closure, I felt memories flood back of seeing them as an 18 year old in that very room, wearing Belle & Sebastian t-shirts, tartan skirts and knee socks, dancing to a band who helped me discover what it meant to be a pop fan. Years might have passed, but that same joy and sense of discovery still prevailed, as lyrics to songs I've not listened to for years were automatically recalled. 

My tapping toes never missed a beat, despite shoes that kept slipping off my dancing feet - one final dance to "Untidy Towns", "Smokers In Love", "T-Shirt Weather", "Under The Rotunda", et al. and the smile couldn't be wiped from my face. Hearing "Frisbee" played live for the first and last time was such a highlight, as were the closing numbers - "The Year of Driving Languorously" for the main set, and "The Music From Next Door" on the encore.  They might not have played my favourite song, "The Golden Age of Aviation", but I didn't mind at all - after two hours of The Lucksmiths and every other golden melody they've crafted, and I felt well satisfied. Pop fans around the world will miss their charm, wit and personality, and I feel incredibly lucky to have seen them play so often over the last eight years.

I didn't take any photographs, unfortunately, because I was much too busy dancing and cherishing the moment. A picture can't recreate the feeling of listening to their songs and reflecting back on all those shows.

I have the opportunity attend one of their final shows in Melbourne this weekend, but I am entirely torn by this. On the one hand, I'd love to hear their songs emanating live one final time, but my memory of the Brisbane show is just so complete that I am satisfied if I don't get to see them again. I don't want to spoil those thoughts by attending a show with an unfamiliar crowd, without that warmth that came from seeing them with those I know. 

Goodbye Lucksmiths - you've shown me such a great time, and your memories and songs will continue to burn strong!

Slumberland love + Brown Recluse

There's not much point repeating at length what multiple others have already said so succinctly, but it's all true - as Slumberland continues to fire out incredible records at alarming regularity, it's difficult to comprehend how 2009 would have sounded without its seal of quality across the pop landscape. I'm entirely addicted - from the soaring modern tribute to my favourite girl bands on Liechtenstein's Survival Strategies In A Modern World, to the shimmering spunk of the Champagne Socialists 7", I could almost live without any other record label in the world right now. And don't even get me started on how much I love Cause Co-Motion - honestly, my love of this band's shambolic crashing punk deserves far, far more than a passing mention.

My next Slumberland order will load up my virtual trolley with the new Searching For The Now singles, loads of new Pains vinyl(including the 'Come Saturday' 7", featuring 'Side Ponytail' on the b-side - at last!), and a beautiful 12" from Philadelphia's Brown Recluse. Called The Soft Skin, the cover of this EP instantly conjures up comparisons to other records featuring captivating eye close ups - certainly The La's and The 6ths both instantly spring to mind.

Given the beauty apparent in both of those records, both on the cover and in the sounds, it's impossible to comprehend Brown Recluse sounding any different. Thankfully, I am not disappointed - it's all hazy melodies infused with horns, harmonies, and a deep love of the best of sixties music and beyond. It's like a perfect update to the sound heard around Arab Strap era Belle & Sebastian, with further influences like Os Mutantes and The Zombies ever present. It's so timeless, yet seemingly so relevant and fresh - perfect clarity of vision and sound in amongst a sea of bands producing lo-fi, crashing, noisy pop. Brown Recluse are the sound of a late summer's day, a bright autumn morning, a springtime Saturday at noon, or a late winter's night in a warm room. When a band can span seasons, you know they are worth treasuring, and I really do treasure having Brown Recluse's sounds in my life.

Listen more and buy yourself a copy here.

Monday, August 24, 2009

the pastels & tenniscoats

At last, I am back with a functioning computer and a night at home. Oh for small joys! And what better way to spend a chilly and wet Monday evening than listening to a cover of The Jesus and Mary Chain's 'About You', as covered by The Pastels and Tenniscoats! What a combination. You can take a listen for yourself right here.

Tenniscoats have been to Australia on a couple of occasions, and I've unfortunately missed out on seeing them each time - on their last tour in February this year, I happened to organise a little club night for myself on the same night they played in town. Such poor timing! I hope the next time they play, they can bring along some fine Scots and play songs off their bound-to-be-fine collaboration record, Two Sunsets. You and I will be able to garner ourselves copies from Domino and Geographic from September 22.

Meanwhile, speaking of Stephen Pastel (surely still one of the dreamiest men in every pop girl's lust list), here's some words of wisdom taken from a Pitchfork interview*:

I like a lot of the music coming out of America recently, like Ducktails, Real Estate, and Crystal Stilts. I heard about Real Estate because we've got a record shop in Glasgow and one of the people who works there told us about them. They reminded me of Orange Juice and Pavement, but they really have their own identity, too.

I think there's a real coherent thread from Swell Maps and Television Personalities through to things like Blank Dogs, caUSE co-MOTION!, Vivian Girls, and the Pains of Being Pure at Heart. Listening to new bands, I get a sense of déjà vu-- and not always in a good way. But if the Pastels were still trying to play the kind of music we played in 1985 or 1986, I would probably feel more territorial-- but then I'd only have myself to blame.

I found this quite an interesting comment, given I've had a few conversations recently about originality vs derivation in a lot of current bands. My take? I love the sound, so I don't mind if a band wants to blatantly rip off the past, but I can understand why certain bands are disliked for being a direct replica. But I tend to think I always prefer going back to the original bands to hear what it was like the first time around...

* Urgh, two Pitchfork links in a single entry? Sorry. Not intentional.

Friday, August 7, 2009

brief hiatus

I've had to take a bit of a break from updates - my laptop is currently sitting idle on my floor, with a screen that doesn't want to switch on, and I've just been through one of the busiest phases of my life (ten flights over the past month, anyone?). But, I've had some incredible experiences of late, and have listened to records that have taken my breath away. Once I get back online, I really hope to share these with you. Stay tuned...