All posts tagged collarbones

  • The Weekend Australian album reviews, October 2012: Collarbones, Tame Impala, The Key Of Sea

    Three album reviews for The Weekend Australian, published in October.


    Collarbones – Die Young

    What we have here is an original and compelling take on pop music viewed through the lenses of electronica, R&B and hip-hop.

    Duo Collarbones – Adelaide-based Travis Cook, and Sydney local Marcus Whale – don’t care much for genre constraints. It’s the best thing they’ve got going for them. Musical innovation is truly rare; there’s no one in Australia writing material like this. Their point of difference is technology-enabled: each track is built on intricate collages of instrumental samples cut, copied and pasted on laptops. Whale’s voice, by turns soulful and ethereal, narrates these stark soundscapes.

    It’s a concept album, of sorts: the lyrics focus on adolescent love and fallen pop idols. The title track is a fine example of the unconventional Collarbones songwriting style: over a lazy backbeat, what sounds like stringed instruments are sped up, slowed down and mashed together to beguiling effect. A verbose verse by Melburnian rapper HTML Flowers contrasts well against Whale’s clear voice.

    The following track, ‘Too Much’, is backed by Cook’s booming, bass-heavy beat; Whale unironically embraces a big, melodic, 1990s-era boy band-style chorus. It could easily be a radio hit. The approach would be a gimmick if the songs weren’t so good.

    The duo’s debut album, last year’s Iconography, was an intriguing introduction but an unsatisfying collection in whole: too many half-sketched ideas, too few proper songs. Die Young is a fully realised follow-up, one that sees the pair living up to their potential. It may be one of the stranger pop albums you’ll hear this year, but you won’t regret your time spent with these 10 fine tracks.

    Label: Two Bright Lakes

    Rating: 4 stars


    Tame Impala – Lonerism

    The trouble with releasing a killer debut album is that it’s much harder to impress with the follow-up.

    This is the situation in which Perth-based quartet Tame Impala finds itself, two years after Innerspeaker, a standout collection of retro-tinged rock songs written and produced almost entirely by singer Kevin Parker.

    That formula hasn’t changed on Lonerism: the young maestro again handles vocals and all instrumentation (in concert, he’s assisted by three bandmates). The main point of difference is that these 12 tracks were recorded in several locations while the band toured the world. And it shows: compared with Innerspeaker‘s lush, enveloping production, there’s much less cohesion between ideas here.

    Stylistically, Parker has added swaths of synthesisers to Tame Impala’s celebrated psychedelic rock tones. These sounds fill out the space between intricate basslines, clattering percussion, psychedelic guitars and Parker’s spaced-out, aloof voice. Heavy piano chords form the basis of first single ‘Apocalypse Dreams’, while follow-up ‘Elephant’ is built on a pulsating rhythm that leads into a glorious, snaking guitar solo.

    Although Innerspeaker was stacked with stand-out tracks, the same can’t be said for Lonerism, which contains just a handful; ‘Mind Mischief’ and ‘Keep on Trying’ are among the best here.

    There’s the aforementioned trouble again: once a reputation for strong songwriting has been established, anything less than great is disappointing. Lonerism doesn’t elicit that particular emotion — it’s a good record, after all — but it does hint at better things to come. With Parker’s brilliant imagination, musical abilities and resourcefulness, it seems that anything’s possible.

    Label: Modular

    Rating: 3.5 stars


    Various Artists – The Key Of Sea Volume 2

    Some might say rock musicians are more readily associated with egotism than altruism, yet this collection is the second in a series that seeks to buck that stereotype.

    By pairing well-known Australian artists with refugee musicians, the project’s organisers, civil rights advocate Hugh Crosthwaite and Nick O’Byrne from the Australian Independent Record Labels Association, hit on a winning idea with the release of Key of Sea Volume 1 in 2010.

    Like its predecessor, Volume 2 is a fine snapshot of contemporary Australian music. Pop, rock, hip-hop, jazz and folk musicians rub up against one another; disparate musical ideals working in tandem towards a common goal of sharing untold stories.

    The Australian collaborators are names Triple J listeners will recognise, with a handful of elder statesmen (Paul Kelly, Kim Salmon, David Bridie) thrown in. The refugee collaborators add their cultural influences to each composition: traditional Kurdish stringed instruments, bouzouki and Filipino choir masters all make delightful appearances.

    Darwin-based electronic soul duo Sietta teams with Pacific Island group Sunameke on ‘Open Hands’, which explores the concept of mixed races and cultural diversity; at the other end of the musical and thematic spectrum, Salmon pairs with radio presenter Waleed Aly to write ‘No One Cares’, a noisy rock tune with sardonic lyrics featuring the bureaucratic doubletalk associated with seeking asylum in this country.

    All 11 songs work well: there are a couple of bona fide pop hits in ‘Silence of the Guns’ (led by Jinja Safari) and Clubfeet’s ‘Islands’. The diversity of sounds and stories is reason enough to lend your ears to The Key of Sea. That the songs are compelling and polished is a bonus.

    Label: MGM
    Rating: 3.5 stars

  • The Vine album review: Collarbones – ‘Iconography’, March 2011

    An album review for The Vine. Excerpt below.

    Collarbones – Iconography
    (Two Bright Lakes)

    Despite being written and arranged by two dudes living in different cities, Collarbones’ debut record is surprisingly cohesive. The product of the interstate collaborations (or should that be collarborations? *cymbal crash*) between Sydney-based Marcus Whale and Adelaide native Travis Cook, Iconography is the disorienting soundtrack to a ride through multiple sounds and scenes: electronica, pop, R&B and hip-hop all seem to inform the duo’s sound in equal measures. This has been Collarbones’ best asset since Whale and Cook began fooling around together in 2007: they can’t be confused with anyone else, they’re on their own wavelength. Iconography is worthy of your attention if only for its unique individuality.

    Describing Collarbones’ music robs the experience of much of its pleasure, so here’s a couple of cliff notes. Most every song is built around an eclectic selection of sampled beats, synths and instrumentation, all of which are chopped and shunted into a shifting mass of sound. The results feel organic and effortless, the effects beguiling. In spite of the disjointed nature of their compositions, the production smooths over most jagged edges to ensure Iconography stays on a fairly even keel. Whale sings on the majority of the album’s 11 tracks; more often than not, his voice is discombobulated just as much as the surrounding instrumentation. Some of the album’s best moments are lyricless; the hook of ‘Id’ – if it can even be called a hook – is essentially a symphony of swelling vocal samples, intercut with staccato beats. Previous singles ‘Beaman Park’ and ‘Kill Off The Vowels’ feature Whale’s voice prominently, though the songs’ moods are vastly disparate. The latter is bent around a dark, almost industrial vibe and lower-register singing; ‘Beaman Park’ pitch-shifts Whale’s voice to improbably lofty heights. Both work incredibly well.

    For the full review, visit The Vine. For more Collarbones, visit their Tumblr. Music video their song ‘Don Juan‘ embedded below.

    Elsewhere: an interview with Marcus Whale of Collarbones for The Vine

  • The Vine interview: Marcus Whale of Collarbones, March 2011

    An interview for The Vine. Excerpt below.

    Interview – Collarbones

    Marcus Whale lives in Sydney. Travis Cook lives in Adelaide. Combined, they form Collarbones, an electronic-based act fascinated with pop and R’n’B, who cut, paste and loop sounds and voices atop one another to create dense, uniquely compelling music. Whale and Cook had gone by their respective experimental music monikers Scissor Lock and Cyst Impaled for several years before they connected online. Though they bonded and began sharing song sketches immediately, it was 18 months before they met in person.

    Following a string of appealing single and EP releases – ‘Beaman Park’ wasForkcasted in July last year, and their EP Tiger Beats was a collection of pop covers, remixes and reinventions – Collarbones’ full-length debut, Iconography, is released on March 18 via Melbourne-based, artist-run label Two Bright Lakes.

    TheVine connected with Marcus Whale to discuss interstate collaborations, getting Collarboned, Bieber, and male models.

    At what point did this become a public project? When did it move from just you two exchanging ideas, to putting your music online?

    In the ‘Myspace generation’, you can basically be public as soon as you finish a track. Even with sketches and demos; they can be already up there on the internet, it’s just a matter of whether or not people actually know it. So technically, about an hour after we finished our first track, toward the end of 2007 [laughs]. It’s been a while, but at the beginning, it was just for shits and giggles.

    You were comfortable with sharing even just rough sketches? There was no hesitation?

    The idea of making music public nowadays is way less intense than it used to be. I guess I never really thought about it; it was just like, “Hey, we’ve got some music. Let’s put it on the internet.” We’re both pretty used to that sort of thing. Knowing that it’s not necessarily going to be widely listened to; it’s just there.

    Has making music always been a solitary activity for you?

    Not really. I grew up playing in the school band, and that sort of thing. I played in rock bands when I was in high school. I’ve sung in choirs. It’s always been a fairly group-based thing. I did do a lot of solo stuff; have done, and still do. I did have a lot of fun collaborating with people.

    Travis and yourself currently live in different cities. Are you happy with that arrangement? Do you hope it stays that way?

    Funnily enough, I feel like we’re more productive when we’re just doing little bits and pieces on our own and then sending it [to each other], rather than a really intensive situation where we’re both in the same room, but doing stuff at the same time. I found that if you invite someone over, and say, “Hey, we’re going to make some music,” it takes quite a long time to get something happening. In my experience. Unless it’s really improvised, jammy music.

    We’ve only really successfully collaborated in person twice. I think we’re getting better at it. It’s becoming easier, I suppose. But Travis has generally made music on his own. He has a fairly strange way of going about things sometimes. He has quite an obtuse taste in music. It’s very trial-and-error. He’s come up with some really awesome stuff using devices in a way that’s not standard. I was listening to some of his old music the other day; it’s probably some of the weirdest music I’ve ever heard. He had a very strange mind as a teenager. His project is called Cyst Impaled, and it’s completely different [than Collarbones]. Basically, it’s a combination of really fucked-up ranting about stuff. Brutal noise, flamenco guitars, lots of sampled stuff, and occasionally some really hot dance beats. But then it became a mash-up project. Some of it is truly disturbing.

    For the full interview, visit The Vine. For more Collarbones, visit their Tumblr. Music video their song ‘Don Juan‘ embedded below.