High Highs – ‘Horses’

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High Highs are Sydney ex-pats who now call Brooklyn home. As a side note – what’s with Brooklyn!? There must be a creative tractor beam located somewhere deep within that just sucks every band into its grasp! If I don’t know where a band is from these days I just say Brooklyn and ninety percent of the time I’m right.

Back to High Highs, they’ve released a number of great indie acoustic pop tracks for free via Bandcamp. There’s a real stripped back simplicity to these songs. ‘Horses’ has an effortless flow to it but I’m sure its been nothing but hard work to achieve. I’d really like to see a debut album very soon.

In the promo video for ‘Open Season’ (below) the lads showcase the Manhattan, Brooklyn (Coney Island) surrounds…

Hear more @ www.highhighsmusic.bandcamp.com / www. highhighs.com.

Thanks Jared for the tip!

Echo & The Bunnymen – ‘The Cutter’

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In 1983 while the world was still digesting Michael Jackson’s moonwalk, Britain’s Echo & The Bunnymen had their first top ten hit with ‘The Cutter’. Meanwhile, U2 were the rock kings, producing some of their best work like ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ and ‘New Year’s Day’. In some way’s Echo & The Bunnymen were U2’s evil twin. Perhaps that’s stretching it a little…and plus I’m no U2 fan. But they were both in search of the biggest rock anthem.

I’d argue what Echo & The Bunnymen lacked in consistency they made up for in depth. I’ve come late to the party on this band, only really paying attention in the last few years, I was still wearing bibs and nappies during the band’s prime. But in hindsight, the influence of songs like ‘Killing Moon’ and ‘The Cutter’ reaches out. When the horn section really kicks in about half way through ‘The Cutter’ it sounds very much like Arcade Fire’s ‘Neon Bible’ anthemic era.

But it goes both ways, the guitar work towards the end sounds inspired by U2’s The Edge but is hidden in the mix. There’s alot going on here! One second you’re hearing indian inspired guitar work, then a string section pops in, and then you get kicked in the face with a horn section! Great stuff.

www.bunnymen.com / Grab the album ‘Porcupine‘ from iTunes.

J Mascis – ‘Very Nervous and Love’

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If you’ve ever seen J Mascis or Dinosaur Jr live you’ll know how ricidulously loud they are. I have memories of standing in the foyer during the middle of their set because I couldn’t hack it anymore, complete with toilet paper earplugs – sexy huh!?

Only now, Mascis has mellowed out and released a solo acoustic record ‘Several Shades Of Why’. He’s brought with him an impressive list of friends to play along with, including Kurt Vile, Ben Bridwell (Band Of Horses), Kevin Drew (Broken Social Scene), Pall Jenkins (The Black Heart Procession), Suzanne Thorpe (ex-Mercury Rev) Sophie Trudeau (ex-Godspeed You! Black Emperor) and more.

Despite not having a wall of fuzz behind him, this album is full of gems. Its no easy task to make a voice and an acoustic guitar sound so immediate. But with tracks like ‘Very Nervous and Love’ its clear that no matter what instruments are on hand, good songwriting is good songwriting.

Artist Marq Spusta created an incredible album cover for the record which you can now pickup as a limited edition print, here. There’s still a few left at $USD70 each (not bad at all) and they come individually signed by Spusta and Mascis.

More info @ jmascis.com or grab ‘Several Shades Of Why’ on CD/LP from $10USD @ Sub Pop + iTunes.

Leader Cheetah – ‘Midnight Headlights’

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Adelaide’s Leader Cheetah have been the target of Neil Young comparisons since their debut album ‘The Sunspot Letters’ in 2008. Lead vocalist Daniel Crannitch has always admitted the influence and has an unmistakable vibrato which really comes to fore during live shows. For an alt-country, indie rock band with a love affair for Americana, I can’t think of anyone better than Neil Young to rip off. And it works really, really well!

When ‘The Sunspot Letters’ first got released, it ran my iPod out of more battery power than a whole slew of other releases. Fast forward to 2011 and the dreaded second album mountain has loomed. This month ‘Lotus Skies’ was released and I really didn’t want to be let down. Thankfully ‘Lotus Skies’ is great.

Clearly when Leader Cheetah first recorded their debut they were in ‘studio mode’. Seeing them live after the album was released didn’t exactly feel like what was on record. But now the band have produced an album much more inline with their identity and what they produce naturally on stage. This is a good thing. ‘Midnight Headlights’ is the sprawling opener, offering up a more sophisticated arrangement than we’ve heard before, combining strings into the mix.

You can catch Leader Cheetah touring the east coast til September, details here.

‘Lotus Skies’ @ iTunes from Spunk Records / EMI Australia (thanks LOZ! :))

Crone – ‘The Silver Hammer’

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Isis fans may still be wiping at their tears after the band’s breakup… but there is some good news.  Bassist Jeff Caxide (also of Red Sparrowes) has released a new solo project called Crone.

It’s dark, scarey as hell and will get under your skin! It may not be for everyone but the five-track album ‘Endless Midnight’ is a real sonic experience.

More info via the Waylon Recordings blog here.