All posts tagged tim

  • FasterLouder story: ‘Urthboy – The Storyteller’, July 2013

    A story for FasterLouder; a profile of the Australian hip-hop artist Urthboy. Excerpt below; click the image for the full story.

    Urthboy – The Storyteller

    Andrew McMillen charts Tim Levinson’s rise from petty criminal to one of Australia’s most important musical voices.

    FasterLouder story: 'Urthboy - The Storyteller' by Andrew McMillen, July 2013

    The middle child began acting out in his teens. Spurred by small-town boredom, a desire to test the boundaries of authority, and an absentee father, a fascination with petty crime took shape. The adrenaline rush of “bombing” public property with spraypaint cans, breaking into empty buildings, and shoplifting were all par for the course among his friends. The more audacious would steal cars and nearly run over their accomplices by accident, or go “searching” – their innocuous euphemism for the serious transgression of popping store tills, grabbing the money, and fleeing.

    Stints in juvenile detention followed for these boys, yet Tim Levinson was in awe of the wits that crime demanded. “Those graffiti artists and crims were the sharpest thinkers and quickest responders to nerve-wracking situations,” he says now. “I feel like I was never really that way inclined.” A voice at the back of his head told him, as the age of 18 fast approached, that soon, these boys would no longer be tried as children in the court system. And so the middle child and petty crime parted ways.

    Tim Levinson tells stories. His preferred medium is the song and verse of hip-hop, where he performs under the pseudonym Urthboy, a name which has no greater significance other than sounding cool, an all-important factor for a teenager registering his first Hotmail address. Levinson’s skill in this field has developed to the point at which the 35 year-old finds himself in mid-2013: surrounded by a strong national audience, critical plaudits (three of his four solo albums have been nominated for the industry-polled Australian Music Prize) and widespread respect among his peers of all musical stripes.

    For a genre that was largely derided and dismissed at the turn of the century, this country’s hip-hop culture has slowly but surely moved from the fringes to the centre. And at the centre of that culture is this particular storyteller. His father left the family home in the small Blue Mountains town of Wentworth Falls, NSW – population 5650 – when Levinson was nine, owing to issues over drinking and domestic violence.

    This separation shook up their lives considerably: suddenly, his mum became the breadwinner through necessity, working up to 14 hours a day to support her three children. Levinson processed this abandonment as best a child could, but would still find himself out on the front lawn some nights, alone, watching cars on the highway and wishing that the tiny headlights of his mother’s beaten-up Corolla would come home.

    Music became a refuge during this formative time. His elder brother, Matthew, introduced a raft of influences by sharing his CD and cassette collection. At first, Britpop bands like Blur and Pulp appealed, before his ears attuned to Leonard Cohen. Run DMC’s Tougher Than Leather was the first hip-hop record he truly loved. His own rhymes scribbled on pages would eventually be coupled with beats, and recorded. His first band was named Explanetary, a hip-hop six-piece that featured Levinson and two others on vocals.

    Staying in Wentworth Falls never appealed; he moved to Sydney after completing high school. His musical aspirations slowly shifted from a hobby – something done with friends, and not taken seriously – to a full-time career. Explanetary would only record one EP together: In On The Deal, released in May 2001. Twelve years later, Levinson has released four solo albums, five with influential Sydney-based nine-piece band The Herd, and worked with dozens of hip-hop artists to release their music on Elefant Traks, an independent record label that Levinson co-founded in 1998, and where he still works as a label manager.

    Despite the widespread enjoyment of this once-niche music genre nowadays, it’s worth remembering that it took quite some time for the nation’s ears to attune to Australian accents backed by synthesised beats. “Because hip-hop was such a strong Afro-American music, it was hard to hear it another way,” says Paul Kelly, who Levinson is supporting on a national tour this month. “But to me, hip-hop is like soccer: it’s very portable, adaptable, and can work worldwide. It just needed to seed for a while here, so that our own blooms could grow out of that. It’s well-suited to local vernacular, so once people get their own style, it’s going to work well, wherever it goes.”

    To read the full story, visit FasterLouder.

  • Rolling Stone album reviews: Tim Freedman, The Bon Scotts, January 2012

    Two albums reviews published in the January 2012 issue of Rolling Stone.

    ++

    The Bon Scotts 
    We Will All Die At The Hands Of C.G.I. 
    Popboomerang

    Misleadingly-named outfit deliver quality LP

    The second LP from this seven-piece exhibits folk pop with none of the over-earnestness you might associate with the genre. Each of the 11 tracks clocks in at under four minutes, and all are neatly contained musical ideas adorned with brass, flute and chanted band vocals, the latter of which adds a real sense of fun. The Melbourne-based septet have found a fine balance between beautiful instrumentation – fingerpicked guitar, graceful piano runs – and raucous theatrics. Neither element is overbearing, and the result is a well-rounded set of songs informed by irony, humour and – as the title hints – an undercurrent of mortality. Just ask the morose, overweight Batman on the cover.

    Key tracks: “Let’s Do What The Catholics Do”, “Polluted Sea”

    ++

    Tim Freedman 
    Australian Idle
    Sony

    Whitlams frontman fails to excite in solo mode

    The Whitlams singer/pianist steps out for his first solo album and delivers a collection of middling pop tunes with nary a memorable hook between them. Freedman has displayed a knack for clever wordplay in the past, but there’s a dearth of evidence here: his gags and puns invariably fail to hit the mark, album title included. Most songs exhibit an overproduced sheen, which acts as a repellent. It’s only when Freedman allows some tenderness to shine through that we’re reminded of the talents that made him a household name. These comparatively subdued moments allow Freedman’s band to shine, too. Such songs are in the minority though. A thoroughly disappointing solo debut.

    Key tracks: “Back When We Were Beautiful”, “In The Current”

    ++

  • SMH IT Pro story: “‘Larger technical issue’ in Facebook ad system”, December 2011

    A short feature for the Sydney Morning Herald’s IT Pro section. It’s my first work published under the SMH masthead. Excerpt below.

    ‘Larger technical issue’ in Facebook ad system

    Self-service ad platform gives advertiser grief.

    A Facebook employee has suggested the dramatic shifts in advertising rates on the company’s self-serve ad platform may be due to a “larger technical issue”, in an email to an Australian customer.

    The customer, Tim Levinson [pictured], manager of Sydney-based hip-hop music label Elefant Traks, claims to have experienced price hikes of up to 1000 per cent on the social network’s self-serve ad platform.

    Levinson has spent around $10,000 on Facebook advertisements in the last two years; roughly $100 per week, using the site’s pay-per-click model.

    In late July, he wrote a concerned email to Facebook’s ad sales team, noting that the pay-per-click rates had gone “inexplicably through the roof” – from $0.50 per click to as much as $5. The Elefant Traks manager – who performs under the MC name Urthboy, and is also a founding member of popular Sydney hip-hop group The Herd – noticed in July that the estimated cost-per-click suggested by Facebook’s self-serve ad system wouldn’t budge on its ‘suggested bid’ amount, regardless of whether he was bidding on popular – and therefore, more competitive and expensive – keywords such as ‘triple j’ and ‘bliss n eso’, or significantly less popular terms such as ‘sydney underground rap’.

    “I run a music business where a click results in an actual ‘sale’ only a certain percentage of the time,” he wrote in the email. “This is consistent across the board. The art is increasing that percentage through clever targeting. There is no way that $2 per click is value for money, let alone $3 or $4. There is no way that I gain useful information about the best keywords for targeting people who actually buy our product when the fee per click is the same, regardless of the targeted groups.”

    It took two weeks for a Facebook employee to respond. In the month of July, Levinson had been charged between $25 and $71 each day. On August 5, “Josie” from Facebook’s ‘Online Sales Operations’ team wrote back and explained how the pay-per-click system worked, despite Levinson having used the ad platform without problems for two years. His concerns remained, so the email conversation continued.

    For the full story, visit SMH IT Pro.

  • The Australian story: Hillsong Music Australia, October 2011

    A short feature for The Australian’s arts section about Hillsong Music Australia, the record label arm of the Hillsong Church. Excerpt below.

    The power in grooving for God

    [Photo above: Hillsong Live plays at the Sydney Entertainment Centre in December. Thousands of fans attend Hillsong’s conferences and live album recordings each year. Picture: Trigger Happy Images Source: Supplied]

    The crowd roars as the lights dim. All eyes are focused on the stage, where smoke obscures the silhouetted figures. Four guitarists, four singers, two keyboardists, a drummer and a dozen-strong choir break into song. The sound is loud and clear. A boom operator swings a camera across the front rows; its images are fed on to three screens, which also list the song’s lyrics in a huge white font.

    The visual aids seem superfluous, though, as most know these songs by heart. Once the strobe lights disperse at song’s end, one of the singers asks: “Does anybody love Jesus here tonight?”

    It’s Friday night at the Brisbane campus of the Hillsong Church, yet the production values wouldn’t be out of place at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre, about 25km away. About 3500 worshippers surge through these doors each weekend for services on Friday nights and Sunday mornings. The first third of this 90-minute service is more rock show than sermon: there are about 600 people in attendance tonight, all grooving on the spot to the rhythm section, hands held aloft in praise, voices singing, “Our God is greater than all”.

    All the musicians on stage are volunteers, as are the sound and lighting technicians. But unlike other live music venues across Brisbane, there’s no pursuit of a pay cheque. Instead, we’re witnessing musical expression in search of divine approval.

    After the band leaves the stage, an advertisement for Hillsong’s annual live album recording appears. This year, the recording takes place at Allphones Arena in Sydney, where 15,000 people are expected to attend. Hillsong Music Australia manager Tim Whincop calls the recording — to be held this Sunday — “an extension of our church services”.

    “With so many services across a weekend, we don’t often get chance for our whole church to worship together at the same time,” Whincop says. “Our gathering at Allphones Arena will allow us to achieve this, and we will take this opportunity to record our next worship album.”

    Since its first album in 1988, Hillsong Music has become one of the most successful independent record labels in Australia. According to Whincop, the label has sold more than 12 million records worldwide, and more than one million records in Australia. It has 21 ARIA-certified gold records to its name, 11 certified gold DVDs and one platinum CD: the 1994 live album People Just Like Us, which sold more than 70,000 copies. Yet, apart from when it pops up in the charts a handful of times each year, the label exists outside the nation’s mainstream music industry.

    Hillsong Music emerged in 1983 out of the congregation at the Hills Christian Life Centre in Baulkham Hills, Sydney. Whincop says its music interests have grown from “a small team of passionate people to a group of hundreds of singers, musicians, songwriters and production volunteers” based at three campuses in Sydney, one in Brisbane and 12 extension services held in venues including bowling clubs, universities and cinemas.

    Hillsong Music Australia — a department of the church — employs 17 full-time staff.

    Its artists and repertoire have little in common with other labels. Where a company such as Dew Process in Brisbane has a diverse roster of artists, such as Sarah Blasko, the Panics, Mumford & Sons and Bernard Fanning, Hillsong has just three bands on its roster: Hillsong Live, Hillsong Kids and United, the church’s best known “praise and worship band”, which was founded in 1998 and has 13 albums under its belt. Like the Hillsong Live series, United releases an album each year. The label’s next release has a Christmas theme.

    For the full story, visit The Australian. [Note: you may have to register for an account to read the full article, as News Limited has imposed a paywall as of October 2011]

  • A conversation with Ryan Holiday: blogger, former marketing director of American Apparel, soon-to-be author; October 2011

    Ryan Holiday is one of the most influential people in my life.

    His blog, RyanHoliday.net, is one of the most valuable online resources I know of. This is a statement that I know will make him blush, because Ryan is a modest guy. I know this because when I first approached him for an interview in January 2010, he deflected my questions – which were extremely detailed, potentially to the point of exhibiting stalker-like behaviour. He wrote that when he felt he deserved an interview, he’d give it to me; he also said that mine was “the most in depth, investigative email I’ve ever gotten”.

    At 24, Ryan [pictured right] is a year older than me. I’ve viewed his blog as a kind of counsel since I first became aware of his work. His thinking and writing has, in turn, shaped my thinking and writing. It is fair to say that I wouldn’t be on the path I am now if I hadn’t been closely studying another young male on the other side of the world, fearlessly kicking down doors in search and pursuit of his goals. For a couple of years, Ryan’s ambition, persistence and confidence all directly influenced my day-to-day thoughts and actions. Which is another statement that will make Ryan blush, because it’s a pretty fucking weird thing to type, let alone think.

    Ryan first attracted my attention by attracting the attention of someone who I was closely studying at the time: Tucker Max, the American blogger-turned-author who is best known for his 2006 book I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell and the 2009 film adaptation of the same name.

    Ryan wrote a review of Tucker’s website – which, at the time, was a collection of stories about Max’s drinking and sexual exploits – for his college newspaper, and sent the link to the author. Soon after, Max posted the review on his message board, which was a fairly popular corner of the web; it was deleted a couple of years ago. I immediately became interested in figuring out who Holiday was.

    That review led Tucker to hire Ryan as an intern at his company, Rudius Media (now defunct). It led Ryan to work with the acclaimed author Robert Greene as a research assistant on the strategy book The 50th Law, co-written with rapper 50 Cent and released in 2009. And it led Ryan to be hired by the clothing manufacturer American Apparel, where he worked as Director of Marketing for a couple of years. He still works as an advisor to American Apparel, but moved from Los Angeles to New Orleans in mid 2011 to work on a book project of his own.

    Since January 2007, Ryan has consistently used his blog as a platform for discussions about writing, running, online PR, media, philosophy, and stoicism, among other topics. I’ve consumed every word that he has written since his first post, ‘The Business Of Running‘. I often re-read his posts multiple times, which is something I rarely do online. That first post remains a valid starting point for understanding Ryan’s way of thinking and writing. I’ll quote the opening paragraph below.

    “I run 5 miles every night. It’s where I go to digest my day, hash out the multitude of information that’s been poured into me in the last wild six months or so, and to try and condense it down to some sort of cohesive strategy to live my life by.” – Ryan Holiday, January 31 2007

    When I visited the United States for the first time with my girlfriend Rachael in September 2010, I asked to meet up with Ryan in Los Angeles. We met at a burger joint on Melrose Avenue and talked for an hour or so. It was a huge thrill for me to meet a guy who’s been something of an internet hero to me for nearly five years. Rachael didn’t really understand why it was so important to me at the time.

    Neither did I, really, now that I think about it. All I knew then, and know now, is that Ryan Holiday is one of the most influential people in my life. It’s an honour for me to publish the below email interview.

    Andrew: When you wrote that review of Tucker’s website, what was the intended outcome?

    Ryan: I’m not sure if I ever told anyone this, but I’d noticed that Tucker tended to link to or write about any press he got (at least back then) and so I thought, “I’m a writer for a college newspaper, why don’t I try it”? It didn’t really go much further than thinking about it at that time. Then a couple weeks later I had the opening line of that piece floating around in my head: “If Hunter S Thompson had read this site, he probably wouldn’t have killed himself.” I figured I had something and eventually sat down and wrote it.

    So the intended outcome was that I’d send it to him and he’d link to it (I reposted the article on my blog) and that would be it. But the reaction totally blew my mind. Within about 20 minutes he’d responded and… I went back to my Gmail and found it:

    From: Tucker Max

    [November 28th, 2005]

    “Jesus Christ. Dude, that is fantastic. Seriously, I am awed by your grasp of me and my material. I am going to post this as THE example of a great review of me and my work.”

    It’s funny to me now because that reaction has become a pretty routine occurrence for me since then. I obviously thought I wrote a pretty good article but I was still reluctant to send it off. Is he going to like it? Did I go overboard? What are the chances of it getting a response? Turns out I had nailed the target and didn’t quite understand the extent. That seems to happen a lot to me. You’d think I’d anticipate it by now, but still other peoples’ reaction (positively, anyway) tends to catch me by surprise.

    What did that response change for you? Was that one of those ‘Fight Club moments‘ I remember you writing about years ago?

    I think it was the opposite of one of those moments. I think of a Fight Club Moment as something that breaks you down and demolishes the pretense and bullshit entitlement you have in your life. This wasn’t that. It instilled a lot of confidence in me. It was like, “ok, I am better than I knew. That’s awesome, maybe I can build on this.”

    What happened next between you and Tucker?

    I think after he had the publisher send me a copy of his book to review, which I did, and after it was published I asked for his thoughts on the writing. He went over it on the phone with me about ways I could improve my voice and tone.

    I stayed in touch—I think in my post about advice a couple weeks ago I called this ‘staying on the radar’, and that’s basically what I did. I would pop in and ask questions, for advice, send links etc. Any excuse I could think of to keep that connection alive. Only an idiot would waste that chance.

    A year or so later I was in New York, where he was living and I told him I wasn’t looking for a job, or a salary or a handout but I had some thoughts on ways I could contribute to his company, Rudius Media. After the meeting, he offered me an internship, which 6-8 months later become a job. But it was all a very fluid thing, like I was saying.

    [Andrew’s note: that post he mentionedAdvice to a Young Man Hoping to Go Somewhere (Or Get Something From Someone Successful)is an absolute must-read.]

    To me, the act of writing the review and showing Tucker is a pretty solid example of figuring out what you want, and pursuing it accordingly. Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t that lead to him offering you a job, you quitting college and moving to LA, and then working for American Apparel?

    Haha, I mean you pretty much figured out exactly what I was doing or trying to do with the last question, probably with a better sense of clarity than I really had at the time. But yeah, it was the door that ultimately led to the opening of all the other doors. I have him to thank for all of it. When I see a path to an opportunity–like a lane in basketball–I sort of put my head down and the next thing I know I’m through it and it took me somewhere I didn’t totally anticipate.

    With the Tucker thing, I knew I wanted to one day be a writer like the kind of writers he was working with at the time – I’d known this since I first saw his sites in high school – so I did that article, and then I was working for him, and then I was working for the people he was working with, and then the people they were working with, and so on. I don’t think any of them every solicited me for a job either so much; it was just that I was around all the time, doing stuff and offering to do stuff, and then it eventually became official.

    How did you come across Robert Greene’s work? Was it Tucker who first showed you?

    Yeah, I’d heard of the books obviously but I think Tucker recommended The 48 Laws of Power so I read it. I marked up my copy so much and had a million questions to ask Tucker.* Then the first time I met him, Tucker walked me to a bookstore and bought me The 33 Strategies of War and said, “if you’re going to work for me, you’ll need to have read this.” I think that’s how I found out I got the job. All I took from that exchange was: “I better read this book on the plane ride home and know it backwards and forwards.”

    * Ryan’s sidenote: that copy of The 48 Laws is priceless to me. Someone stole it out of my office at American Apparel. I was fucking distraught. It makes no sense because Dov [Charney, AA chairman and CEO] has a million copies laying around. Why would they want my marked-up personal copy?

    How did the opportunity to work for Greene arise?

    The three of us – Tucker, Robert, and I – had lunch in L.A. a few years ago and it kind of arose from that meeting. Although it almost didn’t, because I was so nervous I accidentally messed up when I gave Robert my phone number.

    I have a suspicion that working on The 50th Law might have inspired a sense of validation, given your regular documentation on your life via the blog, and your personal reading and research via your Delicious account. Am I right, or way off?

    I mean, it was very cool to have the privilege to be allowed to peek inside of project like that. But I don’t think validating is the right work. What it was was educational, from top to bottom. Researching for someone–particularly someone like Robert–is crazy because you get pointed in all these directions that you’d never have gone by yourself, given a very firm objective to gather from that direction, and a tight deadline with which to do so. When you read or research for yourself, it is kind of this wandering, directionless thing. For the book, it was like getting a crash course in a million different subjects. I was interested in all of them so I would mark down the stuff I would want to go back and look at later.

    So it’s funny, when I see the book, it reminds me of loose ends I still need to tie up for myself and am interested in looking into.

    Your stoicism guest blog for Tim Ferriss in April 2009 attracted a lot of attention. What did you get out of it? What did you learn from the experience?

    More than anything, it helped me clarify my thoughts. Tim is awesome and he’s got a very impressive commitment to expanding the scope of blog all the time. He starting writing about productivity and got all these people hooked and the next thing you know he’s totally revolutionized how they think about health and science. I was lucky that he gave me the microphone for one of those digressions.

    I got quite a few new readers out of it and he also was gracious enough to give me two more chances to write about similar topics. [The Experimental Life: An Introduction to Michel de Montaigne‘, October 2010; ‘Looking to the Dietary Gods: Eating Well According to the Ancients‘, July 2011]

    What you learn in a setting like that is how to tailor your message to different mediums. When I write for my site, I can be as self-indulgent as I want. When you write for someone else or on a bigger platform, you have to be much clearer and you have to catch them right from the beginning. They’re not YOUR readers, so you have to meet them where they are if you’d like to bother listening to your message. At the same time, it taught me that I don’t want to have to perform like that all the time which kind of freed me up to not have to chase acquiring that audience for myself. If didn’t learn that, I’d be spend all my time working to build something that at the end of the day, would make me miserable to have.

    Could you tell me about your working space?

    When I was in LA, I had a big office with 5-10 employees at any given time at the American Apparel factory. I had an office at my house at well.

    Now, in New Orleans, I sort of went in the completely opposite direction. I’m in a studio apartment so I don’t work much there. I like working and reading and writing out of the library at Tulane or, I belong to an old school athletic club in the French Quarter that has like a library/parlor work space that I use.

    On Mondays, I try to do all my administrative stuff—conference calls with employees, meetings, paperwork and then during the rest of the week I respond to AA emails in the morning and again at night. The middle of the day is mine. I try to write, go to the gym (run, box or swim), and read—in that order.

    I still have the same quote, the one from Marcus [Aurelius], above my desk:

    “When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own – not of the same blood or birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me.”

    The other quote above my desk is from Seneca:

    “Some lack the fickleness to live as they wish and just live as they have begun.”

    In November 2007 , you wrote that “you have to be happy with you”. I understand it’s a work in progress, but are you happy with you in October 2011, nearly four years later?

    Happier for sure. It’s not so much that it’s a work in progress as it is a process. I forget who said it, but someone smarter than me said that “happiness ensues, it cannot be pursued”. And I think it was Aristotle who said that happiness was the result of excellence.

    Either way, I take that to mean that you’re happy when you are doing whatever it is that you’re doing, well. So: are you doing well at your career? Is your relationship the best it can be? Are you handling adversity or a difficult experience with excellence? Are you behaving honorably? Etc etc.

    These are all opportunities to excel in the moment and cumulatively these moments create a sense of happiness. I’m fucking 24, there’s no way I’m doing well all the time at everything but I do feel I am getting better and more consistent.

    I want to close on a cliched question, which I hope you’ll humour me on. What advice would you give to yourself five years ago, when all you really knew about yourself was that you ‘wanted to one day be a writer like the kind of writers Tucker was working with at the time’?

    Fucking breathe. It’s not as precarious as you think it is. There’s no need to be anxious. See, it’s really easy when you’re that young and you don’t have a safety net to think you have to cling to everything for dear life, everything is a crisis, everything is mission critical, nothing else can be the priority.

    When you’re in that space, it’s really hard to have the patience and compassion or even empathy for the other people in your life because you’re fucking fight or flight all the time. In reality, it’s not as dramatic as all that. Taking a more relaxed and accepting approach might mean losing a couple opportunities here and there but down the road, you end up turning down plenty of those anyway, so what does it matter if a couple never arrive?

    If I told myself this and really listened, I feel like I’d have been happier along the way and be able to be prouder of how I behaved and the decisions I made.

    ++

    For more on Ryan Holiday, visit his blog. Hopefully he’ll soon post some news about the publication and release of his first book.

    [Edited on November 18: the first news of Ryan Holiday’s book has been announced.]

  • Mess+Noise album review: ‘Lostworks’ by Faux Pas, April 2011

    An album review for Mess+Noise. Excerpt below.

    Faux PasLostworks

    Less cohesive than last year’s Noiseworks, but no less compelling, Lostworks is a collection of “lost songs” and b-sides created by Melbourne musician Tim Shiel between 2008 and 2010. Crucially, these aren’t half-formed ideas mashed together just for the sake of pumping out a follow-up; after all, he’s charging zero dollars for it, so it’s hardly an attempt to cash in on the success of Noiseworks, his second full-length release. Instead, Shiel appears to have invested a similar amount of time and effort into polishing these tracks for public consumption: he calls this release a “companion piece to Noiseworks” on his website.

    Lostworks’ production isn’t as immediately attention-grabbing as what we heard on his 2010 effort – to my ears, there’s a little less depth in the bass, and fewer gaudy synth sounds filling out the high-end – but the result is still more than serviceable, considering it was assembled, produced and probably mastered by Shiel himself.

    As ever, it’s difficult to judge just how much of Faux Pas’ output is sampled and how much is original, as these songs betray very little about their origins. Even when Shiel teases listeners with familiar musical phrases, they’re skewed almost beyond recognition. He re-appropriates Carole King’s vocals from ‘Where You Lead’ – a song made famous by Barbra Streisand – throughout ‘I Will Follow’. In album closer ‘Don’t Go’, he hints at ‘Waterfalls’ by TLC. (The latter inclusion is a titular nod to Noiseworks’lead single ‘Chasing Waterfalls’.)

    For the full review, visit Mess+Noise. For more Faux Pas, visit his website (where you can – and should – download the album for free). An audio sample of Lostworks is embedded below.

    Lostworks (free album download) by Faux Pas

  • Junior story: Cut Copy’s ‘Zonoscope’, track-by-track, February 2011

    A story for Junior. Excerpt below.

    Cut Copy: Track-by-track

    Tim Hoey – the guitarist and sampler of Melbourne-based synthpop quartet Cut Copy – walks us through Zonoscope, the band’s third album, and their first since 2008’s chart-topping In Ghost Colours.

    1. ‘Need You Now’: This is the most personal song on the record, for me. We loved the idea of having this really epic song, like Bruce Springsteen’s ‘On Fire’; a stadium [sized], really emotional song, without it sounding too emo. It’s certainly my favourite, and it’s a perfect way for us to begin the record.

    2. ‘Take Me Over’: This one is our straight-up AM radio pop song. It’s pop in its purest form, as far as Cut Copy knows it. There’s a heavy emphasis on percussion, and that song very much is representative of that. It’s certainly one of the more pure pop moments on the record.

    3. ‘Where I’m Going’: It’s one of my favourite tracks, because it’s quite different: it’s quite ‘chanty’ and there’s no real chorus. We really like those old Beach Boys records that deal with subject matter that’s quite depressing; the songs are about heartbreak, but the music’s quite uplifting. We always found that really interesting, to see people singing along and smiling to these songs about alienation and heartbreak.

    4. ‘Pharoahs + Pyramids’: This track is straight-up house music, boiled down to its simplest [form]. We were listening to a lot of Chicago house at the time; Adonis, and stuff like that. We added live percussion over the top of it, along with sequenced, synthetic percussions, so it helps tie in with the rest of the tracks on the record. It’s quite a pop song as well; it was our intention for it to exist within a club, but you can also listen to it at home.

    5. ‘Blink And You’ll Miss A Revolution’: This one surprised the hell out of us. The verses were built on this rhythmic groove that referenced stuff like Moodymann; Chicago and Detroit techno stuff. The choruses burst out into this mysterious ‘Cities Of Gold’ type of thing, which was quite unexpected. We wrote this very strange-sounding chorus that we felt people wouldn’t have expected [to see] coming. It felt like a bit of a stylistic triumph for us.

    For the full story, visit Junior. For more Cut Copy, visit their website.  Part 1 of a 3-part ‘making of Zonoscope video series embedded below.

    Elsewhere: a ‘first listen’ review of Zonoscope, for The Vine.

  • Mess+Noise album review: ‘He Will Have His Way’, January 2011

    An album review for Mess+Noise. Excerpt below.

    Various ArtistsHe Will Have His Way: The Songs Of Tim & Neil Finn

    The songs of Tim and Neil Finn – from Split Enz to Crowded House, and their respective solo careers – are cherished by many Antipodeans. To do them justice is to walk a tightrope; iron will and resolute self-belief are required.

    He Will Have His Way comes five years after the release of She Will Have Her Way, whose original concept was to invite female musicians to sing the Finns’ songs. Here, it’s the blokes’ turn, and the array of talent sourced isn’t to be sniffed at. Many of these covers are faithful to the source material, so let’s deal with the two strangest birds of an otherwise uniform flock.

    Electro-rock trio Art Vs Science do ‘I See Red’. They’re full of piss and vinegar, as usual, both musically and lyrically. Led by waves of pulsing synths, a breakneck drumbeat and a high-speed finger-tapped guitar solo, it’s a garish tribute to an already energetic song. In the coda, they opt for a heavy groove flanked by natural harmonics and guitar effects. In a word, it’s ridiculous. But a band like Art Vs Science were never going to play it straight, and their contribution here is memorable if only for the sheer velocity and enthusiasm they bring to the project.

    For the full review, visit Mess+Noise. For more on He Will Have His Way, visit the project website. The music video for Oh Mercy’s version of ‘I Feel Possessed‘ is embedded below.

  • The Vine album review: We All Want To – ‘We All Want To’, December 2010

    An album review for The Vine. Excerpt below.

    We All Want ToWe All Want To

    Damn, that Tim Steward can really write a song.

    In 2010, this is no real revelation: after all, Steward’s distinctive vocal delivery previously led the wonderful Screamfeeder, a Brisbane-based, self-proclaimed ‘noisy pop’ trio who emerged in the early 1990s. While they never quite achieved the wider success of alternative rock peers like You Am I or Jebediah, they remain one of the nation’s finest acts. Though Screamfeeder never quite hung up their boots – last year, they even toured a Don’t Look Back-style reprisal of their 1996 classic Kitten Licks – Steward’s creative soul evidently remains restless.

    In many ways, We All Want To could be considered a spiritual sequel to the songwriter’s past affiliations. Here, alongside four collaborators, several of Steward’s stylistic hallmarks remain intact. Minus one exception in the recorder-based ‘A La Mode’, the songs are arranged around guitar, which alternates between clean-picked phrases and sheets of pleasantly-distorted chords. Like Screamfeeder, central to this band’s appeal is the vocal interplay between genders. In co-singer Skye Staniford, Steward has found a remarkable foil. Their softly-spoken melodies entwine beautifully on standout track ‘Japan’, whose lyrics concern a sense of equilibrium often overlooked when travelling the world. Steward counts off the destinations he’s visited (“There’s stamps in my passport that say I’ve been to Japan / Germany, and Mexico / I watched the Christmas lights come on in Amsterdam / The sky was all aglow”) – but there’s always “as many goodbyes as there are hellos”. He and Staniford conclude that “The stamps in my passport mostly say / There’s as many comebacks as gone-aways”. They seize and reprise that final line in the coda, as their bandmates crash around them in tightly-orchestrated chaos. Forgive the extended analysis of just one track, but in ‘Japan’, We All Want To reveal their songwriting template: mood, restraint, tension, release.

    Full review at The Vine. More of We All Want To on their website. The music video their song ‘Back To The Car‘ is embedded below.