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Video of the Moment #2226: SAFIA

 
By on Friday, 18th November 2016 at 6:00 pm
 

Australian electronic trio SAFIA released their debut album in September; I reviewed it back then. ‘Internal’, out now on Virgin EMI (the UK) and Island Records (North America), is the culmination of the group’s hopes and dreams after becoming one of their homeland’s hottest tickets in town in the past 7 years. ‘My Love is Gone’ is one of the bouncier, popper moments of ‘Internal’, and it now has its own music video. Filmed in Morocco and taking the title of the song literally, the saga that enfolds shows the possible painful price of leaving loved ones behind. I’m sure they had this video planned out before the American election, but it seems especially poignant in that political context. Watch it below. For more on SAFIA on TGTF, go here.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=roF1Q6uRz6Q[/youtube]

 

Live Gig Video: SAFIA perform ‘Counting Sheep’ at Sofar Sounds London session

 
By on Thursday, 22nd September 2016 at 4:00 pm
 

Melbourne electronic soul group SAFIA released their debut album ‘Internal’ merely a fortnight ago. Read my review of their long player through this link. Back in June, 3 months prior to the release of ‘Internal’, the band took a trip to blighty, stopping in London for a Sofar Sounds show there. The below video is of the Aussie trio performing their single ‘Counting Sheep’ (about what else, insomnia!) in a stripped back fashion. While the song doesn’t appear on ‘Internal’ – it was released as a single in its own right in early 2015 – this should be solid proof to any naysayers just how beautiful and perfect frontman Ben Woolner’s lead vocals are when isolated. Watch the arresting performance below. For read more of TGTF’s coverage on SAFIA over the last year and a half, follow this link.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpTLWrVqFHQ[/youtube]

 

Album Review: SAFIA – Internal

 
By on Tuesday, 13th September 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

SAFIA Internal album coverWhat lesson did we learn from the tale of the tortoise and the hare? Slow and steady wins the race. While on paper this doesn’t seem like a winning strategy in the music business, we may have a prime example of success in exactly this way, via an album released just last week. Australian electronic trio SAFIA were one of my top picks from the Aussie BBQ at SXSW 2015. Despite not having released a debut LP, they’ve been fixtures of the Aussie live circuit for the last 7 years, gaining fans and admirers on the booking side of things over time.

The wait for their first big release is over, and if the strength of this 12-track collection is anything to go by, they’re about to become a household name way beyond Oz. The band comprises Ben Woolner (lead vocals), Henry Sayers (guitars and synth) and Michael Bell (drums). All gifted producers on their own, it’s no wonder that they self-produced this album, and there’s no indication that this arguably biased approach has hindered their creative process in any way. In fact, one might argue the greatest take home message of ‘Internal’ is the sheer talent on display on this record, making one wonder why we haven’t heard of this band outside of Australia before. Atmospheric instrumental ‘Zion’ begins the album as if traversing the wild west of electronic music. A mysterious land that seems barren, even dangerous, soon reveals itself, giving way to beguiling beats, then to futuristic, more chill sounds.

The r&b swagger, with its vise-like grip on pop, is evident on ‘Internal’, working in the trio’s favour rather than against it. The bouncy rhythm of ‘My Love is Gone’ makes it a leading candidate in the dance floor filler stakes. A similar celebratory feel is an integral part of ‘Together, Locked Safely’, as Woolner puts his vocals through its melodic paces. Woolner’s soulful, melancholic “I don’t want to be lonely” vocals on ‘Fake It Til the Sunrise’ lead into a tropical beat, then the breakdown where an irrepressible beat underpins the buzzing synths. The heart pumping ‘Close to You’ is another revelation, though the use of autotune seems unnecessary, while ‘Over You’ slinks along appealingly. Hmm, sensing a theme here?

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCH_GNEKlvE[/youtube]

However, it’s the more out-there, surprise tracks that interest me far more than those I already know can (and will) show up on top 40 in due course. ‘Embracing Me’ switches back and forth between pensive, slower moments allowing Woolner’s voice to shine and more frenetic, beat- and synth-driven ones. The lyrics are relatively simple and repetitive; Woolner is making the case to a woman who has told him to leave her alone “you don’t know, all the things that could set you free / like embracing me”. It might be awkward phrasing, yes, but I find it a refreshingly innocent way to court a girl. And seriously, what intelligent woman would say no to a song like this? On the other side of the spectrum, ‘Make Them Wheels Roll’ is a murky hip-hop-esque number, Woolner’s falsetto reminiscent of Dougy Mandagi’s in early Temper Trap material. A slightly gentler approach is taken, surprisingly led along with guitar, in the angsty, dark ‘Go to Waste’.

The album ends with ‘External’, a pep talk to Woolner himself that “there’s no convoluted metaphors for this hollowed space” where he no longer loves who he once did. Some heavy stuff. In its breakdown, the vocals and synths uplift, bringing ‘Internal’ to a positive conclusion and satisfyingly, as if burdens have been shed. There must be a back story to the naming of the album and this song, which will be perfect when we get around to interviewing them. Mixing r&b and electronic into one easily accessible package, it’s a no-brainer that SAFIA are about to be welcomed with open arms by pop fans around the world through ‘Internal’. If I were a betting woman, I’d put all my money on them.

8.5/10

‘Internal’, the amazing debut album from Canberra, Australia’s SAFIA, is out now on Virgin EMI (the UK) and Island Records (North America). For past coverage on SAFIA on TGTF, including my review of their appearance at the Aussie BBQ during SXSW 2015 in Austin last year, go here.

 

Video of the Moment #2164: SAFIA

 
By on Thursday, 18th August 2016 at 6:00 pm
 

It’s exciting times for Aussie electronic indie trio SAFIA. I discovered the band in preparation for SXSW 2015, catching them in Austin playing Sounds Australia’s annual Aussie BBQ. Early next month, they’ll finally be releasing their debut album ‘Internal’ on Virgin EMI (UK) and Island Records (America), and I can’t wait. ‘Over You’ is a brilliant sneak peek into the upcoming LP, chronicling the difficulty of getting over a significant other when they’re still a significant player in your mind. You can run, you can hide…but getting over that person who you used to hold so dear isn’t going to be that easy. Grab ‘Internal’ when it hits all good high street and digital shops on the 9th of September.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5JZM9lvgXo[/youtube]

 

SXSW 2015: an Irish lass and breakfast, a Swedish supergroup, bands at the Aussie BBQ and some more English tweed – 20th March 2015

 
By on Wednesday, 1st April 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

My traditional start to Friday at SXSW every year is to arrive at B.D. Riley’s Irish pub in time for the full Irish breakfast and stay for the related showcase put on by Music from Ireland. The only problem in the SXSW 2015 edition: I wasn’t able to stay for the whole showcase, so you’ll have to read Carrie’s review later of the whole shebang. I was however able to partake in the actual breakfast (and I never turn down a decently cooked egg, even if it should have been sunny-side up and not scrambled, and there was no black or white pudding either ::grumble::) and get another opportunity to see the sunny and sweet pop singer/songwriter Orla Gartland play another set. After doing my part on proselytise and promote her as the sound of young Ireland (something I decided the night before at the Music from Ireland evening showcase at Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room), I had to bid my goodbyes and head out.

Luckily, it wasn’t raining. Yet. You know how you can usually smell and/or sense impending rain? Well, I usually can. The winds were swirling above, yet the heavier drops from the sky held out long enough for Swedish supergroup and super buzzed about band Amason to play their set at the Sweden showcase early at FLOODfest Friday at Cedar Street Courtyard. To be honest, I was relieved for them, thinking about how much equipment could be ruined, not to mention how many band members might be electrocuted, if the sky decided to open up and pour down on them in the middle of the set.

Amason at SXSW 2015

Instead, their songs – driven by determined rhythms, the strong vocals of each member of the band and their excellent musicianship – wowed the crowd at who were also enjoying the complimentary Swedish meatball buffet. You can read more about this set of Amason’s as part of my introduction to the interview I did with Nils Törnqvist (drums and percussion) and Petter Winnberg (bass) in this post from last week.

The rain turned out to be quite a damper for most of the day Friday. Because of the bad weather outside, I reckoned that most people either gave Friday at SXSW a pass, not wanting to venture out in a less than fashionable poncho, or they just stayed where they were as long as possible, which is what Carrie opted to do at B.D. Riley’s and St. David’s church later on in the night. Me? I’m not so easily satisfied and so I braved the weather to stick to my original plan of seeing an afternoon of great Aussie bands at the Aussie BBQ, which I unfortunately missed out on last year. While I think Sounds Australia did a great job being prepared for the rain, passing out free ponchos and a handy guide to the Aussie BBQ’s line-up to any punter coming into Brush Square Park, as well as continue serving their promised free loaded hot dogs that punters were grateful for, I think everyone questioned the wisdom of moving the event away from Maggie Mae’s to two outdoor venues.

SAFIA at SXSW 2015

Thankfully, as the setup at Brush Square was the same as for Sounds from Spain on Wednesday, with tents keeping most things dry. Despite the rain and the inconvenience of rain gear and errant brollies, the mood was up in the West Tent as I arrived in the middle of SAFIA‘s set. The Canberra trio – Ben Woolner, Michael Bell and Harry Sayers – are of that crowded electropop genre, but Woolner’s voice is soulful, making beat-driven, hand-clappy songs like ‘You Are the One’ and ‘Listen to Soul, Listen to Blues’ stand out. They got the crowd riled up and ready for a full day of their countrymen’s music.

I knew nothing of Clockwise before he played, so I really wasn’t sure what I was going to get. You know how Nick Cave is a beloved, legendary performer from Oz? Well, ladies and gentlemen, I’m pretty sure Andy Clockwise is jonesing to grab that mantle away from him. And he can do it with his stage presence. His music’s good too; at first I thought, hmm, an Australian Bruce Springsteen, this is going to be interesting… Then the sound morphed from rock into one that was more mainstream pop. Huh! Things are really interesting now!

Clockwise at SXSW 2015

Then the man jumps off the stage, hands over his guitar to a random member of the audience, faffs maniacally with the knobs of the amp, and tells her to get onstage and wail on it. She does. He then brings the drummer’s high-hat down and hands over a drumstick to another all too eager audience member, who is instructed to bang on the high-hat as hard as he can. Mayhem, I tell you, utter mayhem. Yet it was so quintessentially mental – and fun – as SXSW goes.

Well before her set, I interviewed pop singer/songwriter Lenka, who wore a poncho even inside the tent to prevent the slightest damp or drip from getting on her sundress (it worked) but who was understandably nervous about any of her and her band’s instruments getting wet in a freak accident (it appears everything was spared and in reasonably good working order). Now, I can’t be sure if the rain had anything to do with the terrible feedback that was coming up through her microphone, but during her set, Lenka decided to go unplugged, going out into the crowd to sing a song accompanied by her guitarist. When in Rome, right? It just goes to show what a professional Lenka is, not letting malfunctioning equipment ruffle her feathers one bit.

Lenka at SXSW 2015

As promised by her answers to our SXSW 2015-flavoured Quickfire Questions, her stage setup showed off her keen crafting skills, with clouds and rain being represented on artwork hanging from Macbooks and even her own keytar. While recent single ‘Blue Skies’ didn’t manage to bring out their promised nice weather and at times you could hear thundering from above, it was still great watching Lenka do her thing to a crowd of appreciative fans. I’m looking forward to hearing her upcoming album ‘The Bright Side’, due out this summer.

Sydney’s Mansionair were up next on the West Tent bill. Prior to coming out to Austin, I’d heard several of their songs on YouTube, notably the title track to their 2014 EP ‘Hold Me Down’, and enjoyed what I heard. The combination of haunting, yet minimalist synth notes, guitar and percussion, effective production, and a warbling vocal is one that is not soon forgotten, and the same could be said for their whole set Friday afternoon.

Mansionair at SXSW 2015

Even before seeing them live, I had a feeling of complete validation mid-week in Austin when I’d seen on my Twitter feed that during their time here, they’d been signed to Glassnote Records, aka the NYC indie but not really indie record label that launched the mega careers of Two Door Cinema Club and Mumford and Sons in the States. Hold tight, Mansionair, your lives are about to get very crazy very soon.

I had an interview date in a little while with Public Service Broadcasting, so I thought I’d duck into their set closing out the Friday afternoon programming at the British Music Embassy. Heh. What I expected: a well-attended but not packed out affair full of Anglophiles like myself. What it was like, actually: a totally rammed venue where the audience was even more enthusiastic for the quirky history boffin duo than the night before, which was to my utter surprise, especially for an afternoon showcase. The amount of cheering for ‘Spitfire’, wow! Perhaps we Americans don’t know how to do tea properly, but at least we recognise – and appreciate, often loudly when it’s warranted – our British cousins and their talent.

 

TGTF Guide to SXSW 2015: Australian artists showcasing at this year’s SXSW (H – T)

 
By on Thursday, 5th March 2015 at 11:00 am
 

Please note: all information we bring you about SXSW 2015 is to the best of our knowledge when it posts and bands scheduled to appear may be subject to change. To learn when your favourite band is playing in Austin, we recommend you first consult the official SXSW schedule, then stop by the band’s Facebook and official Web site for details of any non-official SXSW appearances.

Sounds Australia brings a veritable cornucopia by genre of acts to many major music festivals around the world during the year, including TGTF May UK festival favourites The Great Escape and Liverpool Sound City. Their Australian contingent always has a massive presence at SXSW, and this year is no exception. In addition to the annual, all-day Aussie BBQ advertised as the biggest Australian band showcase outside of Oz, it’s sure to be a good time with 25 of the hottest Australian acts performing at Brush Square Park on the Friday of this year’s festival. With much assistance from our Aussie friend NickiGirlStar, today we’ll be introducing the second half of our list of many of the bands coming from down under. (The first half can be found through here.) Whether you’re lucky enough to head out to Austin in 2 weeks or not, we hope you’re find a new act (or three) to fall in love with.

Hamish Anderson (Melbourne)
There are loads of singer/songwriters showcasing at SXSW, so how do you choose who to see? With his bluesy sensibility, Hamish Anderson appeals to your primal senses, the kind of person who prefers JD McPherson, the less pop side of the Black Keys, and back to basics Jack White. (Mary Chang)

Jack Ladder and The Dreamlanders (Blue Mountains)
In Australia there is a famous band called You Am I with an equally famous lead singer of the name Tim Rogers, so it is no wonder that the lead singer for Jack Ladder and The Dreamlanders (who shares the name of Tim Rogers) goes by Jack Ladder professionally. The other unusual coincidence for Jack Ladder is that his smooth sublime baritone vocals can at times sound as if you are listening to Nick Cave, which is not a bad thing in my books (take a listen to the Jack Ladder and The Dreamlanders award-winning album ‘Hurtsville’).
The good news for American enthusiasts of Jack Ladder and The Dreamlanders is that their second album ‘Playmates’ (also featuring Sharon Van Etten on ‘Come On Back This Way’) is available in America this month. It came out in Australia in late 2014 and received good reviews. Jack Ladder’s distinctive vocals have been laid over the trademark synthesised disco beats of Dreamlander Donny Benet, a slight departure from the music that featured on “Hurtsville”.

Each of The Dreamlanders – Kirin J. Callinan (who released his own album ‘Embracism’ in 2013 on Terrible / XL), Laurence Pike (also of PVT) and Donny Benet – has his own career. You will get to see Kirin at SXSW doing his solo thing. As a whole, Jack Ladder and The Dreamlanders make some wonderful music and are well worth experiencing. I am sure you will be pulled in by the dreamy vocals and be swaying along to ‘Come on Back This Way’ and ‘Her Hands.

Kirin J. Callinan (Sydney)
Kirin is one of those mesmerising or alienating artists. I have always thought his music would suit a David Lynch film and funnily enough, he will be one of the performers at a David Lynch film music retrospective at the Sydney Opera House in March 2015. He is championed by Brooklyn record label Terrible Records, formed in 2009 by Chris Taylor (Grizzly Bear) and Ethan Silverman. He supported Grizzly Bear when they out in Australia 2012 and he teamed up with the label to present “Terrible Love” at Sugar Mountain Festival in January 2015.

I always delight in Kirin’s raw avant-garde style of electronic rock performance. He has a lovely deep smooth rich voice and a cheeky smile and gleam in his eye for all. He loves to shock and be unpredictable. Go see Kirin for a little excitement and an out of the ordinary set as he is always a showman. He will be a busy boy at this year’s SXSW as he is a Dreamlander and will also be performing with Jack Ladder and the other Dreamlander boys.

Lenka (Sydney)
The great thing about SXSW is the sheer fame spectrum of acts who will appear in Austin, from up-and-comers to established megastars. Lenka’s music has shown up on countless international advertising campaigns and in major motion pictures, but the proof is in the pudding: several of her songs like ‘The Show’ and ‘Everything at Once’ have seen the Aussie singer reach the top of the charts all over the world. Her fourth album ‘The Bright Side’ is expected this summer, and have a listen to poppy and incredibly sunny ‘Blue Skies’ (perfect for Austin!) from the new effort below. (Mary Chang)

The Love Junkies (Perth)
Lo-fi is a way of life in America and the UK these days, but I’m not entirely sure the genre is so insidious across Oz. Yet. The Love Junkies are yet another band who refuse to take themselves too seriously, and their slacker sound and ‘tude could easily fit in with the Californian sand and surf. (Mary Chang)

Mansionair (Sydney)
I can’t help but notice that the list of Aussie acts taking to the stage at SXSW is mostly made up of conventional rock bands. Jack Froggatt, Lachlan Bostock, and Alex Nicholls are all multi-instrumentalists, which should clue you in on their band’s eclectic sound instrumentally. They’re a little ambient, a little indie and a little synthpop, while nowhere near anything from conventional electronic, and imagine Hayden Thorpe and his Kendal falsetto laid on top of that. Does that take your fancy?

They’re a remarkably new band: from my Googling, it appears they just started as a trio in January 2014, and they only have two official singles and an EP to their name, having signed last autumn to CHVRCHES’ own Goodbye Records. The numbers don’t lie: they already have over 10,000 followers on Facebook, so they must be doing something right. Maybe when they covered SXSW 2014 success story Future Islands during a triple j radio session in January, they were channeling them in the hope they could do as well in Austin. Personally, I prefer their single ‘Hold Me Down’, which you can watch them perform live below. (Mary Chang)

Oxford and Co. (Sydney)
Back in the day, Justin Timberlake was called a triple threat – he knew how to act, sing and dance. Samuel Stephenson and Cameron Potts could have taken the easy route and gone for the bog standard folky singer/songwriter sound. But that would have been way too simple. Have a listen to ‘Sinner Baby’ from their self-titled EP released last summer, with its soulful vocal deliveries with an absolutely wonky rhythm. It shouldn’t work, yet it does. But just in case you’re more of a singer/songwriter purist, the rest of ‘Oxford and Co.’ is haunting in its beauty and true to the guitar-toting songwriters of history. (Mary Chang)

Remi (Melbourne)
Hip hop artist Remi Kolawole may only be 23 years old, but he’s already won Best Independent Release for his critically acclaimed album ‘RAW X INFINITY’ at the Rolling Stone Australia Awards. The LP sees its American release in April, so SXSW gives him and collaborators Sensible J and Dutch the perfect timing for his American live debut in Austin.

Having sold out Australian headline tours and a support slot with Damon Albarn in Oz last year, even duetting onstage on the Gorillaz track ‘Clint Eastwood’ with Albarn. With America being the land of hip hop, Remi’s success stateside is a no brainer. (Mary Chang)

SAFIA (Canberra)
Electronic producer trio SAFIA are probably more famous in the States at the moment for starting a beef with Ariana Grande’s people over similar looking music videos. Which is an utter shame because they’ve got their own chill sound and have already garnered accolades from Aussie radio station triple j, becoming their city’s winner and representive at annual music festival Grooving the Moo.

San Cisco (Fremantle, Perth); read past TGTF coverage on San Cisco here
San Cisco are a band who pretty much don’t need an introduction on either a UK or a US music Web site. Chances are you’ve heard of them, having already played an array of UK music festivals, notably Reading 2013, where our John caught and was impressed by their early day set on the third day of festivities. Sunny indie pop your thing? Here you go. (Mary Chang)

Steve Smyth (Newtown, Sydney)
Steve is one of those acts that everyone will be talking about. He has a trademark bushy beard, a heart of gold, is the freest of free spirits, and has an extreme amount of energy and enthusiasm. Steve can brighten any stage with his powerful haunting heartfelt vocals accompanied by his dynamic guitaring. I liken Steve’s charisma and presence on stage to that of Australia’s rock god Nick Cave. Although he is half the age of Mr Cave, Steve has experienced life to the full garnering praise from his performances on stages all over the world. In Australia, he has supported The Killers, Snow Patrol, Lanie Lane, and Angus and Julia Stone, as well as touring all over this land in his own right.

Steve is generous to his audience and mixes up his performances sometimes singing old bluegrass covers like ‘Sylvie’ to raucous foot-stomping ballads like “’Barbituate Cowboy and His Dark Horses’ and moving onto sweet heart-wrenching ballads such as ‘Written or Spoken’ from his second album ‘Exits’ released in September 2014.

You will be amazed and left in awe by Steve Smyth, as he is a consummate performer that gives all he has to each show whether it to be a whole stadium or just a small gathering. I believe you will be swept up in the magic of Steve Smyth just as much as I am.

Twerps (Melbourne)
First time I heard the jangly pop rock of Twerps, I fell in love with them. I think it was at a Laneway festival in Melbourne and from there I sought out their 2011 debut self-titled album that featured the classics ‘Dreamin’, ‘Through the Day’ and ‘Who Are You’. I was pretty late in coming to the Twerps party, as they are located in Melbourne and don’t play in Sydney that often. They formed in 2008 and have been really busy ever since in Australia and America (touring, SXSW, CMJ) and along the way have built up much respect from the punters and critics alike. They found a champion in BBC 6musics’s Marc Riley, who spread their 2012 single ‘Work It Out’ by playing it on his evening programme.

Their music touches my soul, it builds on the Australian sound and music psyche that was carved out in years gone by bands such as The Sunnyboys and The Go Betweens. At times, the beauty of the debut album brings tears to my eyes. In November 2014, I heard some of the new tracks from the 2015 album ‘Range Anxiety’ released in January, and am confident it’ll be another ripper LP. Check them out to discover what the revered Australian pop rock sound is like.

Massive thanks to NickiGirlStar for her local insight and assisting with this two-part feature.

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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