Music: News, tours and new releases

Music festival merry-go-round gathers pace as major artists come out to play — Radiohead, LCD Soundsystem and Arcade Fire are among the acts lining up to play major international festivals, and the ripple effects are being felt.

MUSIC NEWS

The big Northern Hemisphere music festivals are announcing their line-ups and there’s a lot for fans Downunder to get excited about.

While some of the legendary festivals of Europe and America remain draws for fans all around the globe, the most interesting info for local fans can be found in the fine print.

Some acts are emerging from lengthy periods of hibernation and are poised to drop long-awaited albums, while others may be positioned to make a further trip in our direction.

The re-emergence of major artists such as Radiohead, LCD Soundsystem, Arcade Fire and Sigur Ros at the top of festival bills has stoked anticipation that new music from these acts may be just around the corner.

Arcade Fire have been quick to downplay rumours that a new release is imminent stating that 2017 may be a more reasonable time to expect new tunes from Win Butler and co. Icelandic group Sigur Ros last released a record in 2013, so we’re due for the band’s eighth studio album.

LCD Soundsystem went on farewell tour in 2011 that reached a crescendo with an epic recorded show at Madison Square Garden in New York. But after a self-imposed five-year exile, key member and founder of DFA Records, James Murphy, has announced the group are currently recording a new album.

Murphy released a snippet off those sessions on Christmas Day, appropriately titled Christmas Will Break Your Heart.

LCD Soundsystem’s demise always felt slightly peculiar. After years of slugging it out behind the decks , Murphy finally achieved widespread acclaim after a string of excellent releases culminating in 2010’s wildly popular This Is Happening.

Now running the gauntlet of reforming a dormant project, expectations will be sky-high for Murphy to recapture the old magic.

Radiohead remain one of the most enigmatic and mysterious bands in the world. Free from ties of any kind to record labels or other industry staples, and prone to relying on a close-knit team of collaborators, the band largely operates in the shadows emerging only at a time of their choosing.

Interviews with band members, and hints from long-time producer Nigel Godrich, indicated the group were working on new music towards the end of 2015, somewhat confirmed by the surprise release of their rejected theme song for Spectre on Christmas Day.

The discovery that the band has established a new company named after one of the prospective songs for a new album has set off rabid speculation from fans online that new music could be released any day now.

The group have a track record for surprise releases – 2007’s In Rainbows broke the mould with a ten day turn around between announcement and digital release and a ‘pay what you want’ price scheme. 2011’s The King of Limbs dropped four days after an announcement. More recently, lead singer Thom Yorke released a solo album with no warning whatsoever.

No one should be too surprised to wake up and be greeted to a new Radiohead album.

Australian eyes will also be firmly cast towards the line-up announcements for the string of Japanese music festivals. Often acts follow up an appearance in Japan with a trip to Australia.

Not only does this usually guarantee an astounding set of headlining options for the giant mid-winter Splendour in the Grass festival at Byron Bay, but also a plethora of other international acts touring around the country.

 

TOUR NEWS

Of more pressing concern are the festivals and artists currently making their way around Australia. The Laneway Festival is making its way across the country and for those wishing to avoid the crowds, or potentially avoid the timetable clashes, many acts are playing sideshows.

Chrvches, Purity Ring and Grimes are headlining international acts who released acclaimed records during 2015. The reactions to their live shows are slightly more mixed though.

Chvrches received a fairly tepid review for a recent live show from The Guardian, with the band described as “a synth-pop band who have not yet transitioned to the pop arena”. According to the reviewer, the band failed to stir the crowd into much action.

Purity Ring played an excellent set at Splendour in the Grass last year to an overflowing tent of enraptured patrons. However, while you would expect sometimes that an electronic act would be toe-tapping fun, sometimes Purity Ring’s icy glazed wall of synths step into a more melancholic mood. While they put on an impressive show, it’s a good reminder that electronic music and non-stop dancing do not always go hand in hand.

Grimes released one of the best albums of 2015, Art Angels, but the meticulous DIY production details of the recording are slightly sloppier live, according to a Consequence of Sound live review.

The publication remarked that Claire Boucher’s exuberance sometimes resulted in a few technical mishaps. “Grimes’ tendency to be overcome by moments makes the overall performance perilous at times,” CoS wrote. But they remark that her slip-ups are more than made up for by her sheer force of energy and personality.

Byron Bay Bluesfest is coming up at Easter (see Daily Review‘s competition to win a five day pass for three people) and  many of the acts are playing sideshows in other major cities. Kendrick Lamar and D’angelo are two of the hottest acts in music right now and are receiving rave reviews for their live shows, while Beach Boys mastermind Brian Wilson is performing Pet Sounds in its entirety – a tantalising prospect to see a pop music legend performing arguably his most complete work.

Local act Rufus just released their second album Bloom and to back it up they’ve just announced an Australian tour in May. They’re a killer act live whose music comes into its own in performance. No doubt these shows will sell out fast.

 

NEW TUNES

After years working on the fringes of alternative pop music, Aussie chanteuse Sia Furler has gone from being the quirky singer-songwriter to the very definition of the mainstream.

Her sixth album, 1000 Forms of Fear, was a worldwide smash hit that rocketed her to stardom but equally it has been her efforts as a songwriter which has made her a part of the commercial radio furniture. The artists she has penned tracks for read like a who’s who of pop music – Rihanna, Beyonce, Adele, Flo Rida, Britney Spears, Katy Perry, Shakira, Christina Aguilera and many, many others.

But not every song she writes ends up in the hands of a superstar singer – the songs on This is Acting are the rejects. But far from being the dregs of Furler’s creative impulses, the twelve tracks here are a remarkable display of the consistent quality of her writing.

Singles Alive, Reaper and Unstoppable are all instantly catchy songs with Furler’s soaring vocals at the forefront. Cheap Thrills bounces along with a Caribbean style beat and a children’s choir chanting – it’s not too hard to imagine it in the hands of its intended recipient Rihanna.

If there’s one disappointment with This is Acting it’s the rather bland and familiar production – it never strays far from the (admittedly incredibly successful) template put in place by 1000 Forms of Fear.

The result is an album chock full of pleasant pop songs, albeit without some of the quirky charm that made her original incarnation so fascinating.

Bloc Party returned this week with two new members and a fifth studio album after a four year gap. Disappointingly, Hymns fails to recapture the ecstatic highs and jittering pulsing arrangements of their earlier seminal records.

Lead singer Kele Okereke is always an intriguing presence, his words packed with thought, passion and conviction. But on Hymns he seems rather short on inspiration, “These words will fall short/ But I must try,” he sings on Exes.

Losing an entire rhythm section is always tough, but the off-kilter frenetic energy conjured by drummer Matt Tong (who famously burst a lung while pounding the skins for Bloc Party live once) and bassist Gordon Moakes has left a chasm in the Bloc Party sound. Without them propelling the songs along, Hymns is a rather dull and static affair.

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