Here it is: part 3 of my series on Australian music, just as I promised (albeit a little–okay, very–late). The great “Down Under” has produced many quality folk-pop singer-songwriters, but with these two bands/musicians, Australia proves that it can churn out more than just sentimental and glitter-infused tracks. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a sucker for that kind of music; it’s just good to know there’s diversity.)
Australia is also home to quality psych-rock bands like Tame Impala and bluesy sirens a la Abbe May.
While television shows like American Idol rarely ever find musicians who can translate successfully into popular music sphere, it seems as if a shy Aussie beat the slim odds. Lisa Mitchell, an Australian Idol alum, stood out on the talent show for her coy, singer-songwriter demeanor. Released in 2009, Mitchell recorded her debut full-length Wonder in the UK, which has now reached Platinum in Australia. Canadians who do not know her might have actually heard one of her most popular singles, “Coin Laundry,” in a Bell Canada television ad (available for download below). She has been nominated for 3 ARIAs, won the Australian Music Prize (equivalent to Canada’s Polaris Prize) for Wonder, opened for Jason Mraz, and played big Australian festivals like Big Day Out.
Her musical style, some people may say, is full of soft child-like vocals and is unmistakably twee. Simple yet intricate in their arrangements, the girl has a penchant for multiple vocal track layers and most of her songs have the ability of making you smile. Go ahead, I dare you. Because regardless of whether or not you think she’s a musical revelation, you won’t be able to surpress your smile.
[MP3]: Lisa Mitchell – “Coin Laundry” (right-click, save as)
In a time when band names are getting more and more complicated, Washington is plain and simple. Washington is the moniker of Megan Washington and her band. I’ve only recently stumbled across this pop gem, and I’m not one to shy away from some good ‘ol pop music. She’s been really popular in Australia for the past year or so and just released her debut I Believe You, Liar. Her radio-friendly sound ranges from mellow pop like “Clementine,” to the quirky “How to Tame Lions” and even more polished, drilling tracks like “Cement.” Give her a listen, because I think you’ll be hearing a lot more about this this Aussie popstar soon enough.
[LISTEN]: Washington – “Clementine”
[MP3]: Washington – “How to Tame Lions” (right-click, save as)
[MP3]: Washington – “Cement” (right-click, save as)
This four-piece from Sydney been on the mouths of many recently and has been touted as one of the big upcoming acts for quite a while. They’ve toured with the likes of Tegan & Sara and they don’t even have a full-length record out yet. With three EPs under their belts and picking up steam, the Jezabels are starting to gain overseas recognition in North American. The band has played a slew of US dates and are gearing up for their Canadian tour. A mix of pop, rock, indie and even a little alternative thrown in at times, the Jezabels are a diverse band whose honest songs are universally relatable.
And Canada, Canada, Canada–please don’t miss this quartet when they come around next week (dates are below). Sadly, I won’t be in Toronto for the show as I’m stuck out of town for school, so please go and enjoy for me so I can live vicariously through you!
[MP3]: The Jezabels – “Easy to Love” (right-click, save as)
[MP3]: The Jezabels – “She’s So Hard” (right-click, save as)
[LISTEN]: The Jezabels – “Mace Spray”
Oct. 26 Toronto, ON – Horseshoe Tavern
Oct. 28 Calgary, AB – The Republik*
Oct. 30 Vancouver, BC – Pit Pub (Uni of BC)*
Nov. 3 Edmonton, AB, The Starlite Room*
Nov. 4 Regina, SK – The Exchange*
Nov. 5 Saskatoon, SK – Amigo’s*
Nov. 6 Winnipeg, MB – The Royal Albert Arms*
I don’t know what it is about Australia that draws me to it. And I don’t know why the great Down Under calls my name, so. It could be the accent (which I’m constantly attempting to perfect), the Sydney Opera House, the kangaroos, or the fuzzy koala bears. Or perhaps it’s because the first time I actually paid any attention to the Olympics, they were held in Sydney, and right then I decided that it was #1 on my list of must-visit destinations. I want to go to there.
Regardless of the reason behind my fascination with the great Aussie country, one thing is for certain: they have some great musical exports. And just like me, they seem to have an affinity for female singer-songwriters. Here are some of the Aussie musicians that I think deserve a some recognition and are worth checking out. This is part 1 of a 3-part series–so enjoy and stay tuned!
This brother and sister duo have 2 full-length albums under their belt, most recently 2010′s Down the Way. With complementary honey-soaked boy-girl vocals, they are household names in their native Australia. Plus it doesn’t hurt that they’re pretty to look at. They actually have quite a substantial dedicated fan base overseas already, with many of their 2010 tour dates selling out (including a sold out Toronto show which I attended). They’ve played numerous festivals, including this year’s Bonnaroo and the CMJ festival over in New York this week. With Angus & Julia Stone well on their way to becoming big names in the States and Canada, be sure to check out their solo efforts: Lady of the Sunshine (Angus) and Julia Stone.
[MP3]: Angus & Julia Stone – “Just a Boy” (right-click, save as)
If you’re into folk/pop, this girl is a true gem. Blasko has been around since 2002, so I guess you could call her a veteran in the industry. Just like her debut The Overture & the Underscore indicates, Sarah Blasko burst on to the scene with sweeping orchestral arrangements and a timid, yet assured warble. She has won 2 ARIA Music Awards (Aussie equivalent of the Grammys) for Best Pop Release (What the Sea Wants, the Sea Will Have) and Best Female Artist (As Day Follows Night) in 2007 and 2009, respectively, since then. I never really understood why she never broke it over here in North America despite her immense talent, because this girl deserves some well-earned recognition!
[MP3]: Sarah Blasko – “At Your Best” (right-click, save as)
@ New Zealand
Wood & Bone Records
With two solo albums–2003′s What To Do With Daylight and 2006′s Albertine–already under her belt and releases/tours with Hillsong United, Brooke Fraser is already a veteran in the music scene. And four years after her last solo record, she’s back and ready to make waves with Flags, which will be released October 12 via Wood & Bone Records. Plus Canadian/U.S. tour dates have also been announced!
Whenever friends ask me about music I listen to, they tend to ask if the artist is “famous,” and I always answer with: “Well, they’re famous to me.” Because regardless of whether a musician has had national/international success, sold a million records, or are on the charts, as long as I listen to them, I consider them “famous” in my mind and make the assumption that everyone has heard about them. (It’s absurd, I know.) Brooke Fraser is one of those artists.
Though she may not be a household name in North America yet, she has a huge following in her native New Zealand and Australia, where her albums have gone Platinum and Gold, respectively. Albertine was Fraser’s U.S. debut and was released in 2008 (two years after it was originally released in NZ, AUS), so I guess you could say she is still relatively new to the North American scene/circuit.
However, being on the road for three years in support of Albertine (beginning in 2006) really took its toll on Fraser; by 2009, she was burnt out and spent. It took a beautiful evening at Coachella and a performance by Fleet Foxes to re-awaken something in the Kiwi singer-songwriter. (Thank you, Fleet Foxes).
“Robin Pecknold began to sing and the purity of his voice seemed to melt away every memory of trauma and disillusionment [...] Then the other voices joined his and it all felt so human and honest [...] It was a moment where I remembered the power of music as a language, a connector. I remembered that I’ve been given the gift of speaking a particular dialect of this language and realised I didn’t have the option of being resigned to silence and I didn’t want it.”
In a press release, Fraser speaks about the direction of Flags and why it’s “more survivable” than previous records :
“I’ve never used as many characters or as much narrative in my songwriting as I have on this record. On my previous albums I was singing completely as myself, which is why I think I got so burnt out from touring. Albertine was inspired by incredibly significant events and people and every time I’d sing I’d go back to that moment where my heart was ripped open. So singing such heavy songs nearly every night for three years took a toll. On Flags, it’s still me speaking, but it’s me speaking through the voices of different characters and their stories. It’s more survivable.”
What can we expect to hear on the new album? Wood & Bones calls the new record “a dreamy, alternative-pop collection that showcases [Fraser's] agile soprano, lilting melodies, and knack for telling her stories through the lives of vibrant characters.”
FUN FACT: The new album features a co-written duet with Aqualung’s Matt Hales entitled, “Who Are We Fooling?”. Switchfoot’s Jon Foreman also co-wrote a track.
Here’s a little taste of the record and the first single off Flags. Listen, simmer, and enjoy!
[Download]: Brooke Fraser – “Something in the Water” (right-click, save as)
Album review over HERE!
READ ON FOR CANADIAN/U.S. TOUR DATES!
If you haven’t already heard of Brooklyn-based Holly Miranda, you’re about to. With the release of her debut album, The Magician’s Private Library (produced by TV On the Radio’s Dave Sitek), she has garnered a lot of much deserved praise. Kanye blogged about her a while back and was completely taken by her airy falsetto’s and surprisingly powerful voice. The girl has a wide vocal range, and she displays her furthermost spectrum perfectly with the deep, rich timbre in “No One Just Is” and the dreamy wisp-like vocals in “Joints.”
Lush backdrops of hazy layers create a dream-like quality which only adds to create an atmosphere and other-worldly environment Miranda’s stunning vocals. Big things are in store for this young artist, and I’m excited to see what she makes of it.
These shorts were filmed in Toronto before her concert at the El Mocambo on May 20. If you’re new to Holly, here are two videos to get yourself acquainted with. And if you’re already an old fan, enjoy (and spread the word)!
Videos credited to: http://woodandwiresvideos.blogspot.com/
Originally a journalist, Swedish-born Annika Norlin — stage name Hello Saferide — got noticed after the success of a song she recorded on a whim (“Highschool Stalker”) and put on the internet in 2004. Having since been signed to Razzia Records in 2005, Norlin has gained immense success in her native Sweden, releasing 2 English-language records under the moniker Hello Saferide and a Swedish-language album under the band name Säkert, the latter winning her 2 Grammis (Swedish equivalent of the Grammys–creative).
With intriguing, story-like lyrics in the same vein as Regina Spektor, Hello Saferide is unique yet readily accessible and easy to relate to. While her debut, Introducing… Hello Saferide leans toward a more twee pop feel with childlike vocals, organic barely-there production, and an abundance of hand-claps, her 2008 sophomore release More Modern Short Stories From Hello Saferide is all Annika Norlin all the time.
Despite now singing in her “real” voice, the raspy, crackling vocals seem more genuine and possessing a deeper knowledge and understanding. Some of her songs are more layered the piano, organ, electric guitar, prominent drums, and studio effects, but she is still able to retain the airy, organic, simple tracks with only piano and acoustic guitar accompaniment. Beautiful songs laden with Norlin’s confident tone are only enhanced by her endearing Swedish accent. Foreign women are always more interesting!
For fans of: Regina Spektor, Feist, Lenka
Take a Listen!
I’m not going to lie. I’m a huge sucker for beautiful harmonies and I have a thing for adult contemporary music – it’s weird. Sometimes it’s nice to listen to music that is simply sugary sweet.
So I give you Dala, who is Sheila Carabine and Amanda Walther. Their moniker comes from the last syllable of their first names. Smart.
With crystal clear voices that melt together to create the most beautiful harmonies, it seems as though the pair were made to sing together; it’s breathtaking, really.
Plus, they were the only Canadian act to play at this year’s legendary Newport Folk Festival which has played host to some of the great folk musicians like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell.
They met in high school and have been making beautiful music together since 2002. Dala has been around for a while on the Canadian music scene, but I just happened to stumble upon then recently. Enjoy!
For fans of: Chantal Kreviazuk, Indigo Girls
Take a listen!